Manchester United came back from 2-0 down at halftime to record a 5-2 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford.

But it was a controversial penalty decision from referee Howard Webb that sparked United’s revival to leave the Spurs players fuming.

Darren Bent and Luka Modric had punished defensive lapses in the 29th and 32nd minutes to give the visitors a shock lead at the end of the first half.

But United pulled a goal back through a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty when Heurelho Gomes was incorrectly punished on 57 minutes.

Wayne Rooney then leveled ten minutes later and Ronaldo gave them the lead immediately afterwards, before Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov rounded off the win.

The game started so differently. Unlike so many teams that visit Old Trafford, Spurs refused to shy away from their usual attacking game.

They could have paid the price in the opening seconds as Dimitar Berbatov went through after a ball from Darren Fletcher, but Heurelho Gomes was alert.

A Bent header on eight minutes pointed to defensive problems for United as they battled to see in the harsh sunlight.

The bulk of those problems came down Tottenham’s right flank, and it was via that route that Bent gave the visitors a 29th-minute lead.

Vedran Corluka put in the cross and, after Bent’s initial header bounced back off Rio Ferdinand, the striker was able to smash the loose ball into the net.

Three minutes later, it was 2-0 and, again, it came down the right. Aaron Lennon’s cross cleared Bent this time, but it came to an unmarked Modric at the far post and he was able to chest the ball down and find the net.

United still looked strong on the attack, however. Ronaldo, who had earlier caused problems with a free kick and a header, struck another free kick into the wall but then quite brilliantly produced a shot with the rebound that was bound for the top corner. Gomes, though, was equal to it, spectacularly clawing the ball away.

A siege mentality was developing around the Tottenham area, but United went in two goals down after the first 45 minutes and Ferguson was moved to replace Nani with Carlos Tevez for the second half.

United continued to attack in the second half, and Gomes had to be alert again when Tevez went through on 53 minutes.

However, when he repeated the feat two minutes later to push the ball away from the feet of Michael Carrick, Webb mistakenly pointed to the spot.

Ronaldo, though, made no mistake from the spot and United were right back in it.

Almost inevitably, United drew level. On 67 minutes, Dimitar Berbatov played the ball for Tevez, who in turn played in Rooney, and the England striker drilled the ball into the bottom corner as the previously excellent Gomes failed to deal with it.

Just seconds after that, United had their lead. Rooney, out wide on the left, crossed the ball in for Ronaldo, whose diving header left Gomes with no chance.

A couple more minutes went by, and Rooney had his second. Ronaldo drove into the area, flicked the ball over and Rooney, unmarked, found the net.

To add insult to injury, Berbatov made it 5-2 in the 79th minute when, from Rooney’s cross, he headed towards goal and, after Gomes parried, managed to direct the ball over the line.

It was unfortunate that, despite United already looking a real threat, they only managed to spark a comeback through a poor refereeing decision.

Perhaps a comeback was already imminent – perhaps the sun played as big a role for the Spurs defense in the second half as it had for United in the first – but it was hard to escape the feeling that this phenomenal fightback owed as much to fortune as to team spirit.

There can be no mistaking that it was a deserved win for United, though, and another vital step towards Premier League glory.