When David Luiz powered in Chelsea’s third goal of the weekend via an opportune deflection off Rio Ferdinand’s shoulder, even the most optimistic of United supporters would have to be forgiven for at least contemplating the “L” word.
Yet, with a tenacity that in truth typifies Sir Alex Ferguson’s Old Trafford reign, the champions showed title credentials with a thrilling come-from-behind snatch and grab, leaving Stamford Bridge with a point.
The point, while not ideal, could have ramifications that transcend the literal. As Wayne Rooney himself put it: “That could be the point that wins us the league."
However, to overturn the two-point deficit they now have to endure over the noisy neighbours, United will have to rely on that mental fortitude and winning mentality again.
Here are ten key games that could go a long way to defining the 2011/12 season for Manchester United.
Fulham, on their best day, is a daunting opponent. With the creative flair of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, assisted by Danny Murphy’s calm stewardship, Martin Jol’s side can prove a thorn in the side of even the most over-indulgent of teams.
Yet away from Craven Cottage (a notorious United stumbling block), Fulham is not the same animal, and fuelled by their desire for a twentieth title, I would be surprised if this match caused Sir Alex and United overt duress.
Aston Villa are essentially a paradigm of inconsistence.
The bane of punters the world over, thus far it has proved nigh on impossible to predict just which Villa will turn up.
Though United seem to have Villa’s cards marked and, amazingly, prior to their League Cup to the Villains at Old Trafford back in 2009, hadn’t lost to the claret and blue since 1983.
Swansea, in contrasting circumstances to established Premiership forces Fulham and Villa, are a fairly unknown quantity for the Red Devils.
With Michel Vorm, the breakout star of the season holding the ship in goal, ably assisted by the dependable Ashley Williams and youthful potential of Steven Caulker, Swansea are a hard side to break down.
Yet with the ability United possess on their roster and playing at home, it would be fair to assume that anything less than three points would be a disappointment.
After a January transfer window in which many cited them as the league's major benefactors (after the £6 million signing of Nikica Jelavic, £2.5 million signing of United’s Darron Gibson and loan signing of former Goodison alumina and South African Steven Pienaar), Everton are now a more fearsome prospect than the inconsistent unit of the start of the season.
Of the so-far-mentioned sides Everton are certainly the side that I can envisage most troubling United, but then again, once more the Red Devils would have to consider themselves favourites.
With a team based upon unity rather than individual flair and price-tags, Norwich have won points that, back in August, few could have predicted.
Whether taking points off the 19-time champions would be a step too far, however, is an entirely different question.
Were it not the last game of the season, I would have placed this below the Sunderland game, but such is the unison in which the two Manchester clubs have accrued points this season I can see it going down to the wire.
In such a situation, Sunderland, lead by the talismanic Stephen Sessegnon and revitalised by the master tactician Martin O’Neill, in the pressure cooker of season’s end, United could have hoped for an easier game.
It's not the Champions League, but even so an underwhelming result against Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena, could intensify the mutterings about United’s deficiencies.
Come out of Holland with anything but a loss, however, and the club look well set for a run into the competitions later stages.
This weekend sees the first of the games on this list, a home tie against the old enemy and second most successful club in England.
Games against Liverpool are always huge and, as such, the propensity for lost points is raised in tandem - just look at United’s 4-1 home loss a few season back.
Yet with Liverpool’s patchy form this year, deprived as they are of Luis Suarez their maligned chief goal-threat, United will fancy their chances.
Although Tottenham are, in theory, still in the title hunt, I cannot help but feel that certain deficiencies in their inexperienced side will be telling come May. They remain, though, a team with a surfeit of explosive attacking talent that, on their day can match and best anyone.
In their own backyard, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Rafael van Der Vaart and Emanuel Adebayor create a fear-inducing concoction that will give Sir Alex sleepless nights.
To be perfectly honest, I cannot see how Ferguson wouldn’t be happy leaving North-London with a point.
The raison d’etre for United’s season; pure and simple. Do or die, lose or win. This will be the match which will, most likely, decide whether sky-blue or red sees the trophy in May. The stakes couldn’t really be higher.
A city divided by patronage, a rivalry that has never been more intense. Neauveau rich against the established superpower.
Oh, it matters.