After the disappointment of tumbling out of the Champions League, any sort of victory in Amsterdam was always going to be the priority. And Sir Alex's men did exactly what was required, beating Ajax 2-0 to take a commanding lead into next Thursday's second leg.
It was far from vintage United and there was a real dearth of goalmouth action. But in some ways that's what was so pleasing.
After all, that's been the formula for success away from home in Europe for the last few seasons, a formula that's served the Reds well, propelled the side to three major finals in four years. The philosophy is simple: keep the ball, spread the play, frustrate the crowd and nick a goal (or two). Most importantly, don't concede.
It's not exciting, but it is effective. It's also what the Reds failed to do in two of the three Champions League away games this season. In fact, in Benfica and Basel United gifted the opposition the game's opening goal. Even at Old Trafford, usually such a fortress on European nights, Romanian minnows Otelul Galati were the only side not to breach the Reds' defence.
It was different in Amsterdam. For the vast majority of the game the Reds never looked like conceding. Granted, Ajax don't possess the sort of attacking thrust that regularly puts teams to the sword, but United's European clean sheet will have pleased the boss no end.
There was only a brief spell of Ajax pressure before half-time that prompted nervous glances to be exchanged between supporters in the away end. And even then there were positives to be gleaned.
David De Gea, much maligned already during his short United career, produced more evidence of his supreme shot-stopping ability, before Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans excelled when Ajax launched a series of crosses into the penalty area.