Sir Alex called in the cavalry at Upton Park as Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie emerged from the bench to combine for the Dutchman’s brilliant stoppage-time leveller. Prior to that grandstand finish, defeat and a subsequent FA Cup exit had looked imminent.
The Reds boss displays meticulous attention to detail in his analysis of matches – he awoke at 4am after December’s 3-2 win over Manchester City and watched the entire match again on DVD. But regardless of any errors he finds in his team's performances, the courage displayed by his players in adversity is a source of great pride.
“That’s exactly it,” he tells the latest issue of Inside United, on sale Wednesday 9 January. “At the end of the day, the finish to these games sends everybody home absolutely over the moon. They’ll be walking down the street towards their cars, or getting in their cars and driving home, telling each other, ‘What a game, absolutely fantastic’."
Asked if he would prefer the late comebacks and last-gasp goals or more routine scorelines and victories, the boss responded: “Och, I suppose the excitement of games like the Boxing Day win over Newcastle gets everyone going! You’d rather do without it, but being the manager of Manchester United you have to relish it and expect it to happen. That’s just the club. That’s how it is.”