2001-02: Reverses retirement decision in February
2001-02: Bayer Leverkusen deny Sir Alex a dream Glasgow date with Real Madrid
2002-03: Real Madrid knock United out in a classic European tie
2002-03: Arsenal are reeled in as the Reds make it eight titles in 11 years
2003-04: United win the FA Cup by beating Millwall 3-0
2003-04: Arsenal's Invincibles win the title, Porto knock Reds out of Europe
2004-05: Wayne Rooney arrives
2004-05: 1,000th game, against Lyon
2004-05: FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal on penalties ends hopes of silverware
2005-06: Roy Keane leaves United
2005-06: A 4-0 romp against Wigan delivers the Carling Cup
to overturn the 3-1 first-leg deficit and the visitors' Brazilian hat-trick hero Ronaldo was afforded a standing ovation which said much about the true nature of the home fans.
Those supporters were rewarded with immense joy and satisfaction in the league as van Nistelrooy struck in a vital draw at Arsenal and again to wrap up a 2-0 victory against the Gunners' rivals Spurs that took United to the brink of glory. "I have got to be honest and say that the success was extra sweet and satisfying because it was achieved against all the odds," crowed the boss. Van Nistelrooy hit a treble against Charlton to race to 79 goals in his first 100 appearances and the Dutchman scored again at Everton, even if the final match was more memorable for being Beckham's last in a Red shirt.
So the 2003/2004 started without the homegrown midfield talent, who was allowed to join Real Madrid after much speculation that the boss had grown tired of his increasing celebrity status. Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in his place as a raw, exciting prodigy but this was