SURPRISE presents are the best ones, so Sir Alex Ferguson – celebrating his 25th anniversary in charge at Old Trafford – will have appreciated Wes Brown’s gifted own goal on the stroke of half-time, just as he did the shock naming of a stand in his honour on the day.
While the newly named Sir Alex Ferguson Stand will be a lasting memorial to his time in charge, Brown’s soft own goal was a timely reminder of how his successful United teams have, over the years mastered that knack of winning games on days when they have been far from their best.
For the reality was that United, for all their star names, struggled to rise to the occasion at the weekend.
And had Sunderland been a little sharper, or United a little less fortunate, the Black Cats could easily have left Old Trafford with a point.
Bruce was hardly helped in his quest for victory by injuries which robbed him of Simon Mignolet, John O’Shea and David Vaughan – the trio replaced by Keiren Westwood, Phil Bardsley and Lee Cattermole.
Undaunted, he decided the best form of defence was attack, going for a 4-4-2 formation.
It was a bold move but within minutes of the start his plans were in disarray – Connor Wickham going down with knee ligament damage, his studs twisting awkwardly in the turf as he looked to close down Rio Ferdinand.
And his replacement, Ji, while neat and nimble and showing some nice touches, struggled to really impose himself on the game in the way the man he replaced might have.
Read Graeme Anderson’s full match report in today’s Sportmail.