Michael Carrick returned for Manchester United
Michael Carrick's return to the Manchester United fold allowed Daley Blind and Wayne Rooney to flourishReuters

Well, that was better from Manchester United, wasn't it?

Not since the halcyon days under Sir Alex Ferguson had United played with the tempo and verve that on Sunday brushed aside Tottenham Hotspur in a 3-0 victory.

Despite crashing out of the FA Cup to Arsenal, there were signs against the Gunners that United were beginning to adapt to Louis van Gaal's oft-quoted but rarely displayed "philosophy".

On Sunday, the Dutchman's vision finally came together and the Old Trafford faithful were treated to a performance that matched the side's impressive record of just three league defeats since succumbing to Manchester City in early November.

Van Gaal shuffled his pack to accommodate a returning Michael Carrick and replace absentees Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw.

It meant Daley Blind dropped into the left-back position he played in during the 2014 World Cup under Van Gaal and the former Ajax captain excelled, particularly when he and Ashley Young terrorised first Andros Townsend and then his replacement Mousa Dembélé.

Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini had one of his best afternoons in a United shirtGetty

Some United fans - myself included - have groaned at Van Gaal's persistence with Marouane Fellaini, whose deployment alongside Wayne Rooney in recent weeks has encouraged a more pragmatic if not entirely pretty style of play.

The Belgian remained a lynchpin against Spurs - leaving the doomed Radamel Falcao to take his usual seat on the substitutes bench - but rather than being the target of constant aerial bombardment, Fellaini proved he was also comfortable keeping possession and linked up well during United's assault of the left flank.

His goal, United's first, was in stark contrast to an opportunity he spurned against Arsenal six days previously. Then, he checked back onto his right rather than firing when bearing down on goal.

This time, Hugo Lloris was left helpless when he drilled a Carrick through ball across goal and into the far left corner. The strike was a fillip to Fellaini - commentator Gary Neville's man of the match - and United, who added a second shortly after.

The returning Carrick, who headed United into a 2-0 lead, was the beating heart of the home team's effort. The 33-year-old dictates the team's play using metronomic passing and snaffling of opponents' possession.

On Twitter I compared the former Spurs midfielder to a Rolls Royce and his performance had all the class of the luxury motor.

He asserts control for United and with the Big One next week, his return is a major boost for van Gaal and United's top four aspirations.

Phil Jones
Phil Jones was more solid at the back for Manchester UnitedGetty

With Rojo ruled out and the idiotic Johnny Evans suspended, United continued with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, both of whom were criticised after United's cup exit.

The odd wayward pass excluded, the pair not only shut out Spurs' Harry Kane but were proficient in possession, launching forward runs out of defence rather than the conservative short passes they usually prefer. Their impetus allowed United to shift forward quickly and put Spurs on the back foot.

The Spanish duo of Ander Herrera and Juan Mata - who clearly enjoy playing together - were positive in their contributions if not spectacular, but where does that leave Angel Di Maria?

The Argentine was left out of the squad completely on Sunday, his confidence sapped after failing to live up to his whopping £60m price tag.

Van Gaal would be wise to omit him on Sunday at Anfield, which will be a cauldron as both sides battle for a coveted Champions League berth and where there will be no place to hide.