Giggs had never scored a penalty in the Premier League before the match
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer, Old Trafford
Manchester United turned up the heat on Chelsea as they returned to the top of the Premier League by beating Tottenham at Old Trafford.
Nani's wonderfully composed finish was sandwiched in between two penalties from Ryan Giggs as United ran out deserved winners against a disappointing Spurs to establish a two-point lead at the top of the table - at least until Chelsea face Stoke City on Sunday.
And it was a crucial victory achieved without Wayne Rooney, who was forced to watch from an executive box after suffering a groin problem in training on Thursday.
United's win put a halt to Spurs' charge on fourth place after their recent wins against Arsenal and Chelsea at White Hart Lane, and this was a disappointing display from Harry Redknapp's side.
Win puts pressure on Chelsea - Giggs
Giggs gave United the lead from the spot just before the hour after Patrice Evra, who suffered from illness during the game, was fouled by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Ledley King looked to have put Spurs in sight of a point when he took advantage of shoddy United defending to head home Gareth Bale's corner with 20 minutes left, but they went under in the face of a trademark late surge from Sir Alex Ferguson's champions who are seeking a fourth title in succession.
Substitute Federico Macheda's pass set up Nani to restore United's lead with nine minutes remaining, and another Giggs penalty in the closing minutes sealed the points.
He showed all his experience and composure to score after Wilson Palacios hauled Nani to the ground.
Berbatov cut a frustrated figure in the first half
Spurs could have no complaints about the penalties awarded by referee Andre Marriner, or indeed the final outcome on a day when the blistering attacking form they had showed in the last fortnight deserted them.
Ferguson's business-like celebrations at the final whistle were a tacit acknowledgement that Chelsea can still put themselves back in pole position.
He will be delighted, however, that his side showed the character and ability to beat a Spurs side that arrived at Old Trafford high in confidence and considered to be a huge threat to United's hopes of securing the three points they required - and all without their talisman, in Rooney.
Rooney's absence was a severe blow for a game United simply had to win to keep applying the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the table.
The importance of the game was not reflected in a first 45 minutes that was a carefully assembled monument to tedium, with both teams demonstrating a total lack of inspiration and creativity.
United did exert a brief spell of pressure around the half-hour mark, when King blocked brilliantly from Dimitar Berbatov eight yards out and Antonio Valencia shot straight at Heurelho Gomes after he was sent clear by Rafael.
Man Utd experience was the key - Phelan
Spurs did not mount a single serious threat on Edwin van der Sar's goal as the half drew to a tame conclusion that betrayed the quality of the players on show.
United defender Evra was struggling and was physically sick in the opening stages of the second half - but recovered sufficiently to almost create the opener for United after 52 minutes. Berbatov headed his cross into the path of Darren Fletcher, but he was inches away from providing the crucial touch.
Wilson Palacios then gave Van der Sar his first moment of anxiety with a long-range shot, a sign of Spurs' previous failure to exert any sort of threat on United.
Redknapp attempted to inject more purpose by replacing the desperately disappointing Jermain Defoe with Eidur Gudjohnsen, but it was United who made the crucial breakthrough from the spot after 58 minutes.
The much-criticised Berbatov played a crucial role with a run into the area and clever flick into the path of Evra. Assou-Ekotto was committed to the tackle and flattened Evra, leaving Giggs to score in composed fashion at the Stretford End. Remarkably, it was the first penalty of his long Premier League career.
Spurs fans, frustrated by their lack of penetration, had been demanding the introduction of Aaron Lennon, and he duly arrived with 25 minutes left in place of David Bentley.
The impact was instant, although Lennon was not involved as King drew Spurs level with 20 minutes left. Michael Carrick showed a lack of strength in the challenge as King rose to head Bale's corner past Van der Sar, with Rafael also out of position as he defended on the post.
Spurs performance disappoints Redknapp
Ferguson is the master of the positive substitution and produced another one when he replaced defender Rafael with Macheda as time ran out. As so often before, fortune favoured the brave as Nani restored United's lead with nine minutes left.
Macheda's angled pass released Nani in the area, and he waited his moment to perfection before lifting a superb lofted strike over Gomes as he came out.
And the game was effectively over four minutes from time when United were awarded another penalty, this time when Nani was bundled over by Palacios. This time he chose to go to Gomes' left, but the end result was the same and Old Trafford was able to celebrate their side's return to the top of the table.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.