With four straight wins in the Premier League, Manchester United is on track for a return to the Champions League as the team goes from strength to strength under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Meanwhile, the man he replaced at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho, just cannot get Tottenham going.
While United romped to a 3-0 victory at Aston Villa on Thursday, Tottenham couldn’t even muster a shot on target against the most porous defense since the Premier League restarted last month.
The 0-0 draw at Bournemouth ranked as arguably the worst game since the resumption of the English top flight.
“The performance was not good enough,” Mourinho said.
The contrast to United’s latest exciting display couldn’t have been starker.
Portuguese playmaker Bruno Fernandes scored again — a penalty, contentiously awarded, for his seventh goal in 10 games since joining in January — and teenage striker Mason Greenwood powered home his fourth goal in the last three games.
Paul Pogba added the third in the second half with his first goal of an injury-affected season.
United stayed in fifth place but moved to within a point of fourth-place Leicester, whose long stay in the top four could soon be over. It might not matter.
Fifth place will be enough to qualify automatically for the Champions League this season unless second-place Manchester City manages to get its two-year European ban overturned in the courts. A decision on City’s appeal should be announced next week.
Tottenham, a Champions League finalist last season, can forget about playing in Europe’s elite competition next season and might not even qualify for the Europa League at this rate.
Mourinho’s team is in ninth place, nine points behind United, ahead of a north London derby against Arsenal on Sunday.
United ran out a comfortable winner at Villa Park, but only after being set on its way by a controversially awarded penalty.
Fernandes went to ground just inside the area even though he appeared to tread on the right ankle of Villa defender Ezri Konsa after spinning on the ball.
After a consultation with VAR, the on-field decision to award a penalty was upheld and Fernandes sent Pepe Reina the wrong way from the spot in the 27th minute.
It was United’s 13th penalty of the season. No team has ever been awarded more in a single Premier League campaign.
The 18-year-old Greenwood has shown he is equally adept at shooting with his left or right foot after bursting onto the scene this season. His latest goal was with his right, with both feet coming off the ground as he fired home a rising shot from the edge of the area in first-half stoppage time.
Pogba and Fernandes are starting to click for United in central midfield and they combined for the third goal. Fernandes found Pogba free at the edge of the area from a corner, and the Frenchman curled home a finish past a stationary Reina.
Mourinho lamented the failure of the referee to award a penalty early in the game against Bournemouth for a push in the back on Harry Kane.
Maybe it was a ruse to hide the shortcomings of his team as Bournemouth faced no shots on target in a game for the first time since promotion to the Premier League in 2015.
Tottenham was somewhat fortunate to escape with a point, with Callum Wilson’s goal from an overhead kick in the 90th minute getting ruled out after the VAR spotted the ball grazing the arm of fellow forward Josh King as it went into the net.
Bournemouth stayed in the relegation zone in third-to-last place, but is now three points from safety with four games remaining.
Danny Ings kept himself in the running to win the Golden Boot with his 19th goal of the season for Southampton in a 1-1 draw at Everton.
The striker is three goals behind leading scorer Jamie Vardy of Leicester.
Ings scored in the 31st minute at Goodison Park, three minutes after James Ward-Prowse missed a penalty for the visitors.
Richarlison scored Everton’s equalizer shortly before halftime in a game between two mid-table teams.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80