United moved powerfully towards retaining the title with this tremendous victory against old rivals Arsenal on an afternoon of high drama at Old Trafford.
Owen Hargreaves scored the winner with a fabulous free-kick after Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Emmanuel Adebayor's opener early in the second half. But every man in a red shirt, not just those on the scoresheet, played their part in this priceless triumph.
Hargreaves and Ji-sung Park had retained their places in midfield after impressing in midweek against Roma but Carlos Tevez had to settle for a berth on the bench, with Sir Alex Ferguson selecting Wayne Rooney as a lone striker.
Arsenal’s side showed two significant changes to the defence which conceded four goals at Anfield in the Champions League quarter-final. German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann made a surprise return, with Manuel Almunia presumably injured, while Alexandre Song made a rare start at centre-back after Senderos’ poor show against Liverpool.
The Gunners made a lively start and after Adebayor’s run was halted by Rio Ferdinand on the edge of the area, Cesc Fabregas rifled a venomous shot just over the bar. Wes Brown will not want to see a replay after gifting the ball to Fabregas, one of three men nominated for both the PFA’s senior and young player awards.
Another double nominee is United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, of course - his first crack at goal was a free-kick which struck the wall.
Ferdinand was again called upon to block an Adebayor effort and another attempt from Gilberto was stopped when the second of two Arsenal corners in