MANCHESTER, England — Wayne Rooney scored a superb solo goal, and produced just as good a celebration, as Manchester United convincingly beat Tottenham 3-0 in the Premier League on Sunday to open up a six-point gap between the teams in the race for Champions League qualification.
After dribbling his way through Tottenham's fragile defense to score United's third goal in the 34th minute, Rooney celebrated by shaping a series of boxing punches before falling over on his back.
Rooney was making fun of a video, released by a British newspaper on Sunday, that appeared to show him being floored by a punch by former United teammate Phil Bardsley in a light-hearted sparring session in Rooney's kitchen.
"It's what friends do — they mess around in the house," Rooney said. "It was a couple of mates in a private house, and somehow it's managed to get on the front page of a national newspaper."
Goals by Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick put United 2-0 ahead after 19 minutes at Old Trafford in arguably United's best performance of the season, albeit against a Spurs team that capitulated in the first half — mirroring many of its displays against top sides last season.
They were thought to be a thing of the past but one resurfaced at Old Trafford, with even in-form striker Harry Kane having a quiet game. He was shackled by the excellent Chris Smalling throughout.
United stayed fourth, a point behind Arsenal and now only two behind second-place Manchester City.
Rooney awoke on the day of the match to a front-page story in The Sun on Sunday that described how he was knocked down by Bardsley, who now plays for Stoke, during a sparring session last month.
Footage released by the newspaper showed the pair pulling on boxing gloves and trading blows in the kitchen of Rooney's home. Bardsley catches Rooney square in the face with a punch, sending the England captain to the floor, where he lay before the video came to an abrupt end.
Rooney played down the incident. And Bardsley's wife, Tanya, suggested in a Twitter post that Rooney was joking around in the video.
"2 mates havin a laugh video doesn't show Wayne jumping straight up and laughing with Phil (hashtag)cleveredit," she tweeted.
Rooney ensured the incident stayed in the headlines thanks to his jokey celebration against Spurs.
His goal came after one of a slew of mistakes made by Tottenham in a shocking first-half display. Nabil Bentaleb's errant sideways pass was seized on by Rooney, who ran straight at the visiting defense, turned Eric Dier inside out and placed a low finish past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Rooney sprinted toward the corner flag, did some shadow-boxing and then fell backward to the hilarity of the fans nearby.
United took the lead when Fellaini ran onto a low pass from Carrick and placed a low finish into the corner in the ninth minute. The same two players were involved in the second goal, with Fellaini's header from a corner half-cleared by Nacer Chadli to Carrick, who sent a precise header into the bottom corner.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino attempted to shake things up by hauling off Andros Townsend for Mousa Dembele in the 31st but it failed to affect the flow of the game, as Rooney scored three minutes later.
The second half was even, with United content to sit on its commanding lead.
"I am worried about the performance," said Pochettino, who added that he couldn't remember a worse display by his team.
United was without suspended midfielder Angel di Maria, which enabled Juan Mata to start his first league game for nearly two months and the Spain playmaker was given a standing ovation when he was substituted.
It was a great way for United to start a tough run of games that sees the team play Liverpool, a resurgent Aston Villa, Manchester City and Chelsea in its next four games.
"We have waited a long time for such a victory," Van Gaal said.