Instead, the manager veered the other way, throwing on a forward for a midfielder and attempting to exploit the battle scars City had sustained in fighting back to parity, namely the removal of Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.
Sure enough, Welbeck's bustling hustle nabbed possession deep in City territory, leading directly to the free-kick from which Robin van Persie ensured an unforgettable victory. Brave team selection, astute tactics, but moreover the boldest of adaptations to an evolving plot.
Harrowing, yet thrilling. Ecstasy via exasperation. To this we have grown accustomed. Yes, United need to stop shipping goals and leads, but such improvements will come over time. This term’s trips to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and now the Etihad Stadium have run every Red through the wringer, but there is seldom a greater feeling than staring adversity in the face and seeing it blink first.
So, while the temptation exists to crow about beating the champions and building a handsome lead (we've squandered bigger this year, remember, so don’t get too carried away), Sunday's was a victory which went far beyond glory; it reaffirmed everything United are about.