The noise levels inside Old Trafford rose as the home fans, sensing they could play a part in another famous fightback, found their voice. But there was no reward before the break, despite a strong penalty appeal when Nani tangled with Vertonghen on 43 minutes.
Rooney replaced Giggs at the interval and made an instant impact, crossing for Nani to sidefoot home on 51 minutes. Barely 90 seconds later, the Reds sensationally had another, as Kagawa turned and calmly rolled the ball past Brad Friedel and in off the post.
Criminally, however, United had allowed Spurs to score in the intervening minute – Clint Dempsey stroking in the rebound after Bale had stretched Lindegaard – and restore their lead. And so, less than 10 minutes after Tottenham began the second half 2-0 ahead the scoreboard read 3-2 to the visitors.
The breathless drama didn't stop there. Rooney curled a peach of a free-kick against the woodwork on 61 minutes and van Persie had the ball in the net soon after, only to see his celebrations cut short by the referee assistant's raised flag.
Sandro then escaped sanction when the ball struck his hand inside the penalty area (it would have been a harsh award) before Rooney went close with a low effort and van Persie dragged a golden opportunity well wide of the post.