Man United 5 Tottenham 2: Two-goal Rooney leads the way for Fergie's comeback kings

They stumbled, they fell, and at times it looked as though they would not pick themselves up to make it over the finish line.

Yet at the end of a remarkable 22 minutes of football, Manchester United ensured the conclusion of this season's Premier League would be utterly inevitable.

Ronaldo penalty goal

Spot prize: Cristiano Ronaldo scores United's first goal

In reality, the plaudits for that glorious flourish of five goals should be shared equally by the dazzling forward line of Dimitar Berbatov, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.

And yet Tevez should take a special bow. For until the introduction of the Argentine at half-time, the lethargy of this United performance suggested they might be ready to surrender their title.

Two goals down, a deathly silence had descended on Old Trafford. They were a team failing to convince, they had won just four out of their previous eight games and another slip here, just when they seemed to have recovered their poise, might have been decisive.

Yet United executed a mesmerising turnaround which ensures they will win their third successive crown because they need just 10 points from five games to clinch the title.

Ronaldo celebrates after his second goal

Red rage: Ronaldo is mobbed after putting United 3-2 ahead

Despite United's superior early possession, there was an unconvincing air about them, a lax attitude that begged to be punished should Tottenham gather enough courage.

The visitors did just that on 29 minutes. Vedran Corluka crossed and the Croatian picked out Darren Bent well. It should have been dealt with, first by Nemanja Vidic, who could not reach to head it away, and then by Rio Ferdinand, who directed it into the path of Bent six yards out.

The Tottenham striker bristled with anticipation at the opportunity gifted him and smashed the ball past Edwin van der Sar.

Barely three minutes had passed when United were exposed again. Lennon went outside Patrice Evra and crossed.

Again, Ferdinand failed to deal with the danger and the ball dropped to Luka Modric, who finished with equal decisiveness.

Wayne Rooney celebrates

Roo beauty: Wayne Rooney is all smiles after making it 4-2

United's stumble had become a fall. Only when Ronaldo, given a second opportunity when his free-kick rebounded off the wall on 38 minutes, struck a dipping, swerving shot goalwards from 20 yards which Heurelho Gomes brilliantly tipped away, did United seem roused.

Tevez emerged at half-time, Nani's lack of contribution to defensive matters having been acknowledged.

And he made an immediate impact. On 53 minutes, he found Rooney in space in front of goal and only the swift reactions and deflection of Jonathan Woodgate prevented the England striker from seizing the opportunity.

Luka Modric goal

Double trouble: Luka Modric scores Totenham's second goal

A minute later, Berbatov slipped a delightful ball to Ronaldo, who in turn played in Tevez. Gomes, rushing from his line smothered the shot but there was no mistaking the energising effect of Tevez.

Hope, it seemed, had been recovered by his arrival. That said, the moment United finally found a foothold was shrouded in controversy.

Rooney delivered a decent through ball for Michael Carrick to lumber towards. But Gomes was smart off his line again, closing down the space quicker than Carrick could advance.

They arrived at the ball together and the Tottenham keeper appeared to touch it away cleanly.

But the contact he made with the former Spurs midfielder was enough for Howard Webb to award the penalty. Ronaldo confidently struck home and at that moment the entire stadium knew how this particular story would end.

Darren Bent

Opening shot: Darren Bent breaks the deadlock at Old Trafford

There was serious work now to be done. In a spell-binding passage of play United would be two goals clear within 14 minutes of that penalty, with a stunning three goals in three minutes.

It began on 67 minutes when Berbatov reminded his Tottenham tormentors in the stands of what they were missing, releasing Ronaldo, who swept the ball on to Rooney.

Gomes got a hand to his strike through the legs of Corluka but it was not enough.

Two minutes later the conclusion to the season became inevitable. Rooney was allowed space on the left and crossed for Ronaldo, who stooped to head home.

Berbatov goal

Remember me?: Dimitar Berbatov scores against his former club

Tottenham's defence now surrendered.

Berbatov then found Ronaldo, who flicked the ball to Rooney, who shot smartly. Woodgate missed a chance to clear, stumbling over the ball as it squirmed over the line.

Berbatov had his reward for an excellent second-half performance on 79 minutes. His deft touch sent Rooney racing down the left. Rooney returned the favour, delivering a delightful cross for the onrushing Bulgarian, whose header was fumbled by Gomes.

Despite the best efforts of Jermaine Jenas, Berbatov scrambled the rebound over for No 5.

MAN UTD (4-4-1-1): Van der Sar; Rafael (O'Shea 70min), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani (Tevez 46), Fletcher (Scholes 61), Carrick, Ronaldo; Berbatov; Rooney. Subs (not used): Foster, Anderson, Evans, Macheda. Booked: Tevez, Scholes, Ronaldo.

TOTTENHAM (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Palacios, Modric (Bale 86); Keane (Huddlestone 87); Bent. Subs (not used): Hutton, Zokora, Bentley, Chimbonda, Cudicini. Booked: Woodgate, Jenas, Gomes.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).