There was little between the teams on this occasion and one goal always looked likely to decide it.
Having defended brilliantly all afternoon, we were undone by a route one goal nine minutes from time. David de Gea launched a free-kick long, Romelu Lukaku flicked on and Anthony Martial got in behind to finish.
That was just minutes after our best chance as Dele Alli touched Christian Eriksen's pass wide from close range. Lukaku hit the post after that and the game looked destined for 0-0 until Martial struck.
The result ended our run of six successive away wins and was our first loss on the road this season - United have won five out of five at home.
Mauricio Pochettino made three changes from our last Premier League outing against Liverpool last weekend as Serge Aurier, Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko came in for Kieran Trippier, Davinson Sanchez and Harry Kane. Left-back Ben Davies became the third player in a week to make his 100th appearance for the club, following on from Toby Alderweireld against Liverpool and Heung-Min Son against West Ham in the Carabao Cup in midweek.
OPEN START: LLORIS SAVE, SISSOKO CHANCE - 0-28mins
United started well with both Lukaku and Ashley Young getting into the box down the left without capitalising. Marcus Rashford then tested Hugo Lloris from a 30-yard free-kick. We grew into the game and after a couple of shots from distance, created our first real chance on 28 minutes. De Gea and Phil Jones collided as the goalkeeper collected Davies' cross, Dele rolled the ball back to Sissoko who blasted high and wide.
CHANCES: DOUBLE OPENINGS FOR DELE - 37mins
The first came from Davies' corner as Dele climbed well to power a header at goal that hit Toby Alderweireld, the second came as we won back possession and Dele was played in, left side of the box, he looked to steer it across De Gea into the far corner but didn't have enough power to trouble the goalkeeper.
Above: Serge Aurier battles Ashley Young.
SAVE: DE GEA PLUCKS DIER'S SHOT OUT OF THE AIR - 41mins
Another chance from a corner as Dier went up for the initial header, United failed to clear and Dier was able to fashion a volley at goal. De Gea, though, pulled it out of the top corner.
CHANCE: DAVIES CLEARANCE DENIES HOSTS - 50-55mins
United had a spell of pressure early in the second half, culminating in three quickfire chances. First, Lloris spilled Henrikh Mkhitaryan's shot but Davies got there to make a crucial clearance from Rashford. Mkhitaryan then drilled in from the left byline and Lloris touched away from Lukaku and Davies was there for another big block this time to deny Valencia.
CHANCES: BOTH SIDES CLOSE - 65-77mins
Both teams made changes and we always had a nice balance in our play. United continued to ask questions and Antonio Valencia rifled just over when Rashford's corner was cleared to him. Lukaku fizzed across goal on the break and then a chance for us as we worked an opening for Eriksen, who lashed over from 22 yards.
WOODWORK: LUKAKU HITS THE POST AFTER BIG DELE CHANCE - 77-79mins
This was a good little period of possession and territory for us and we carved United open on 77 minutes. Eriksen clipped in the pass and Dele darted between defenders, only to poke wide from close range. Play soon switched up the other end as Lukaku powered Lingard's cross onto the post.
GOAL: UNITED 1-0 SPURS - ANTHONY MARTIAL - 81mins
In the end, we were undone by a route one goal. De Gea looked long for Lukaku, he flicked into the path of Martial who got in behind and slipped into the corner, shooting into the ground and over Lloris' leg.
MAURICIO POCHETTINO SAID
"I feel disappointed because the game was even and the performance was good, the effort was fantastic and I feel proud. It was very bad luck in the action where we conceded the goal. It’s painful but we have to keep going and Wednesday we have another big game. We should be talking in a different way. Dele missed the chance we had and then maybe it would have been 1-0 to us and the result should be different. That’s football and we have to accept it."
BEN DAVIES SAID
"It’s not the result we wanted. We felt at 0-0 we weren’t really threatened at all and it was disappointing to concede the goal in the way we did and come away with nothing. We’re disappointed in ourselves as much as anything. That goal is so unlike us, we don’t really concede sloppy goals like that and they didn’t have to do anything special to break us down, that’s the disappointing thing. It’s not an easy place to come here. They have a good home record, don’t concede many goals and make it tough for you. I thought we stood up to the battle and that’s what it was, especially in the first half. You have to earn the right to play, we did that and in the second half we had a lot of the ball. But overall, it doesn’t count for anything when you concede a goal like we did."
Manchester United (3-4-2-1): De Gea, Bailly, Jones, Smalling, Valencia (c), Herrera, Matic, Young (Darmian 90+2), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 65), Rashford (Martial 70), Lukaku. Substitutes (not used): Romero, Blind, McTominay, Mata.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Winks, Sissoko (Dembele 62), Eriksen, Dele, Son (Llorente 62). Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Trippier, Sanchez, Rose, Nkoudou.
Goal: United - Martial 81.
Yellow card: United - Valencia 74.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.
The big matches keep on coming as we welcome Real Madrid to Wembley Stadium, connected by EE, on Wednesday night for our second meeting with the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League. After a creditable 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu a fortnight ago, we'll be looking for another positive outcome against a side renowned for being particularly dangerous away from home this season. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.