United missed out on the chance to pinch top spot from Chelsea after the Reds could only manage a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City at St Andrew's.
The hosts had taken the lead completely against the run of play through Cameron Jerome six minutes before half-time, but a Scott Dann own goal drew United level just after the hour mark.
Despite creating a host of first-half chances, the Reds failed to test Joe Hart after the break. Tomasz Kuszczak, on the other hand, was forced to make a string of fine saves as United struggled to hit top gear.
Sir Alex made seven changes to the side that lost out to Leeds United in the FA Cup – the 100th successive game he’d tinkered with the starting XI – with Paul Scholes, Rafael, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Ji-sung Park all returning. A niggling knee injury ruled Dimitar Berbatov out of the gane.
The game was one of only two Saturday Barclays Premier League clashes that survived the big freeze – Arsenal’s match with Everton at the Emirates was the other – but both sets of players and fans still had bitterly cold conditions to contend with: indeed the temperature gauge read -3 at kick-off.
It was United’s first outing since last Sunday's shock FA Cup exit, and with Chelsea’s trip to Hull called off it was a chance to regain control at the top of the table. The Reds set about getting back on track straight away with Darren Fletcher almost giving the visitors the perfect