it arrived with the introduction of Javier Hernandez in place of Valencia. The Mexican’s energy provided a purpose to the Reds' play, which had been conspicuous by its absence in the second half.
Ryan Giggs also came off the bench to replace Cleverley with 15 minutes remaining, but it wasn’t all about United trying to find the winner. Work had to be done at the back too, with Rafael clearing a shot off the line.
The all-important breakthrough hadn’t seemed to be on the cards but it arrived on 79 minutes via a moment of opportunism from United’s best player. Philippe Senderos misjudged Jonny Evans' high ball forward and Rooney capitalised ruthlessly as he surged forward into the penalty area before curling his shot perfectly round Aaron Hughes and into the bottom corner of the net.
The game wasn’t done and dusted there. Chicharito could have killed it as a contest when he ran through on goal but had a shot save, while van Persie cleared a late effort off the line and some heroic defending from Jonny Evans in particular was vital in seeing out a nervy finish.
It certainly wasn’t a classic and, as was the case against Southampton in midweek, it was the result rather than the performance that felt significant.