Marouane Fellaini’s injury-time winner gave Manchester United a dramatic victory over Young Boys and sent his side into the last 16 of the Champions League.
With Juventus beating Valencia to remain top of Group H, United knew victory would send them through too but an all-too-familiar unconvincing home performance had seen them struggle to make the breakthrough.
As the board was put up to signal three minutes of injury time, United were still looking for their first goal at Old Trafford in Europe this season
It arrived seconds later, when Fellaini collected Luke Shaw’s pass in the box, held off Loris Benito and turned to fire into the bottom corner.
The goal brought a delirious reaction from United boss Jose Mourinho, who flung a basket full of water bottles to the floor in celebration.
It was United’s 21st effort at goal, but they had seen Marcus Rashford and Fellaini waste their best efforts and appeared to have run out of ideas as the game entered its closing stages.
Fellaini came to the rescue, and means United can go to Valencia for their final game with their progress secured and with a chance of topping the group still alive too.
United’s first task was to get to the ground on time, which they achieved despite the ongoing traffic problems that have caused them problems in getting to their European games this season.
Their next job was to put the ball in the net, but Rashford set the tone for the evening when he galloped clear in the fifth minute and fired wastefully over.
That miss left Mourinho staring at his bench in disbelief and he was to see more golden opportunities go begging in the second half as Rashford slipped in front of goal and Fellaini blasted over from point-blank range.
Although United continued to attack, they lacked the invention to create further clear-cut opportunities and the frustration in the stands began to grow.
The introduction of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku from the bench did not change things and Mourinho’s side were seconds away from drawing a blank in three consecutive European home games for the first time in their history until Fellaini struck.
His heroics should not mask a poor performance, however, and the empty seats inside Old Trafford at the start of the game was another sign of the times.
It would appear some United fans have lost patience with what they have been watching, and many of those who did turn up had gone home by the time Fellaini struck.