It was the audible groan that said it all. When the fourth official marched to the touchline at Upton Park and lifted a board that displayed four minutes, there was a sense of the inevitable.
United's reputation for late goals and drama precedes them - so much so that everyone inside the ground knew exactly what was going to happen. Barely had the fourth official put the board down then the net was bulging and United had earned a replay. And what a way to stay in the FA Cup.
Robin van Persie could hold his own goal of the season competition already, but I reckon his strike at West Ham tops the lot. The technique at breakneck speed to control a dropping ball and then bury it in to the corner under extreme pressure with his weaker foot tells you everything about the quality of the Dutchman. Shamefully, I didnt realise quite how good he was until watching him every week for United - what a player!
Much credit too must go to Ryan Giggs. He headed a glorious chance over with a couple of minutes to go, but instead of letting his head drop he produced the most sumptuous, inch-perfect of through-balls just seconds later to set up van Persie for the leveller.
All in all it was a superb occasion that makes a mockery of suggestions that the FA Cup doesn't matter any more - a packed stadium, a huge away following and a rip-roaring game. The only disappointment was that David Beckham left five minutes before the end. Come on David, surely you know that United are never beaten!
The reaction of Sir Alex, the players and the massed ranks from Manchester when van Persie scored told you all you needed to know about the importance of the competition to the club. The players really were in great spirits in the tunnel after the game - Rio Ferdinand even interrupted my MUTV interview with Nemanja Vidic with a question of his own... steady on Rio, I'm not ready to retire just yet! There's still work to be done to make it to