Manchester United moved level on points with fifth-placed Tottenham after victory at West Ham, who played for 75 minutes with 10 men following the controversial dismissal of Sofiane Feghouli.
Referee Mike Dean showed Feghouli a straight red card after the midfielder’s 15th-minute challenge on Phil Jones.
Replays showed it was more of a coming together between two players committed to winning the ball than a reckless tackle meant to cause harm.
Antonio Valencia was guilty of an astonishing miss for the visitors before Juan Mata scored from 10 yards after a clever pass by fellow substitute Marcus Rashford.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of three players offside when he doubled the lead after Pedro Obiang’s clearance fell to Ander Herrera.
It was Jose Mourinho’s side’s sixth straight Premier League win and their seventh in all competitions.
Dean at the centre of controversy – again
The Hammers have beaten Bournemouth, Sunderland, Burnley and Hull at home this season, yet their hopes of claiming a first major scalp at London Stadium were undone by the fastest sending off in the Premier League this season.
There is no doubt Feghouli lost control of the ball and deserved a booking for his challenge on Jones.
But Dean, who sent off Southampton’s Nathan Redmond in the 4-1 defeat by Tottenham on Wednesday, brandished a red card for the fifth time this season, much to the fury of West Ham boss Slaven Bilic.
Jones, who was clearly hurt and rolled over several times before receiving treatment, was booed by home fans for the rest of the game each time he touched the ball.
Feghouli is now set to miss his side’s FA Cup third-round home tie against Manchester City on Friday, while Hammers supporters showed their anger at the official by chanting ‘Mike Dean – it’s all about you’.
In the second half, Dean kept his cards in his pocket after Cheikhou Kouyate’s reckless challenge on Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Mourinho’s substitutions do the trick
This was far from vintage Manchester United, yet Mourinho’s team started 2017 as they finished 2016 – with three points.
They are now unbeaten in their past 13 games in all competitions, while they have taken 25 points from the last 33 on offer.
Valencia will surely be haunted by his 36th-minute miss. It was a brilliant save by Darren Randolph to deny him from close range, but the Ecuador international should have buried the chance, as should Jesse Lingard, who hit the post with the follow-up.
Mourinho’s decisions to bring on Mata at the start of the second half and Rashford before the hour mark proved decisive.
The pair combined to break West Ham’s spirited resistance – the busy and menacing Rashford evading a couple of challenges before cutting back for Spaniard Mata to find the net.
The 19-year-old England striker hit the post before Ibrahimovic, standing in an offside position, scored a controversial second to complete West Ham’s misery.
Positives in defeat for Hammers
Beaten by Leicester City on Saturday, it has been a 48 hours to forget for West Ham in terms of results.
However, they dug deep, displayed a steely resolve – and might even have got something from the game despite the visitors’ extra-man advantage.
David de Gea twice saved well from Manuel Lanzini, before Michail Antonio’s glancing header flashed agonisingly wide as the Hammers threatened.
And shortly before Mata broke the deadlock, Antonio found himself clean through after Lanzini’s perfectly weighted pass, only for De Gea to block his effort.
‘We are champions of bad decisions’
West Ham boss Bilic: “I was pleased with the performance, we fought hard and gave everything. I told my players that if we did this we will be all right in the table.
“Ten men against a team like this is very hard – but we had chances.
“I am disappointed with the result and frustrated by how we lost it, but I am proud of my players.”
Manchester United manager Mourinho: “It was hard for us to think well with one more man – and it was very hard for them physically.
“I was happy with my choices in Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford, they gave us what we needed. Rashford is very professional and very mature. He is a Manchester United player with Manchester United DNA.
“I don’t feel sorry for West Ham – I didn’t watch the decisions. I think if you talk about decisions, we are the champions of bad decisions.”