Indeed, many of the home faithful were planning to wait beyond the final whistle to congratulate United on lifting the title. Not that it makes that awful moment any less painful to swallow, though – the thin line between success and failure perfectly illustrated in the blink of an eye.
There have been other devastating times in my life as a United fan, but it's crucial, again, that they're put into context. Supporting the Reds since 1979, I've had a lot more ups than downs. For those who remember 1958, though, it must seem churlish and insensitive to talk about failure on the field – and I apologise for that – but the final day of the 1994/1995 season, when the Reds were camped inside West Ham's penalty box but could not find a winner, was hard to take. As was watching the defeat at Anfield with a few Liverpool fans in the final year of the old Division One. I'm still thankful my first season was the one that followed the topsy-turvy FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
Yet Sunderland in 2012 left an empty feeling that lingered all summer. How would this impact on United? Would City, galvanised by this first title since 1968, dominate for years to come? One thing we'll never know is how they would have reacted to us ruining their big party and seeing the trophy head once more to their neighbours instead. I suspect they would have found it a bitter pill to swallow.
So what do we make of United's response? An opening-match defeat at Everton meant the quest to regain the championship got off to the worst possible start. You would never have sensed this, however, speaking to Sir Alex the following week. I was fortunate enough to interview him for Inside United and his belief in the team had not wavered one iota. There wasn't the merest hint of concern.
Fast forward to March 2013 and let's examine the circumstances in which United head back to the North-East to tackle the Black Cats again. Nobody believes the title is won yet but victory would open up an incredible 18-point gap before City entertain Sunderland's rivals Newcastle.
If it's true the players and staff have managed to channel last year's crushing disappointment into fuelling the title