Stamford Bridge spirit a fitting tribute to Busby Babes

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A familiar story under Sir Alex Ferguson, but rarely has there been a better exhibition of Manchester United's extraordinary fighting spirit than that was on display in yesterday's thrilling Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge.

With Chelsea leading 3-0 after 50 minutes, it appeared that the Red Devils were suffering a pivotal set-back in their season, as they looked to close the gap on local rivals Manchester City who eased past Fulham with a 3-0 victory the previous afternoon.

The subsequent penalties that helped United back into the game might have been disputed, but what could not be questioned was the relish with which the players tackled a seemingly lost cause.

The strong mentality and experience that Ferguson's squad possesses - traits that no amount of money can buy - remains United's greatest single asset in this year's Premier League title race.

The reigning champions seemed dead and buried at 3-0 down, but once again proved that at Manchester United, they do not know the meaning of the word 'defeat'. Their reputation as the comeback kings has only been further enhanced. Write them off at your peril.

In the aftermath of the game, attention quickly shifted from an assessment of the football to thoughts and prayers as the club reflects on the darkest day in Manchester United history, on the eve of the 54th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.

The date of February 6 will forever be circled on the calendars of everyone connected with Old Trafford, after 23 people - including eight players and three members of the club's staff - suffered fatal injuries in the Munich air crash.

Yesterday's scoreline mirrored that of the Busby Babes' final game - a dramatic 3-3 draw in a European Cup clash with Red Star Belgrade. The tragedy which followed is an indelible part of the club's history, as is Sir Matt Busby overcoming his injuries to build another great team that won the European Cup 10 years later.

The spirit, determination and application of Manchester United's players in their battling performance at Stamford Bridge exemplifies everything that Manchester United represents, yesterday inspired by the impact of current club legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in the middle of the park.

Scholes made his presence felt when he was introduced as a second-half substitute, while Giggs teed up Javier Hernandez for the crucial equaliser with a perfectly weighted cross into the box. The veterans have shown no signs of easing up despite their advancing years, and successfully dictated the tempo in midfield in the last half an hour.

United's transfer policy has come under severe scrutiny of late, with Ferguson's reluctance to delve into the market in a bid to solve his side's lack of midfield creativity. But the unlikely return of Scholes - who announced his comeback prior to the club's FA Cup third round victory over Manchester City - may yet prove the wisest piece of business completed throughout the Premier League in January.

Wayne Rooney's brace - albeit twice from the penalty spot - sparked the United fight-back, and the striker deserves credit for another fully committed display on his return to the Manchester United line-up.

Whilst the finger may be pointed at Chelsea for failing to kill the game off, it's fair to say that a less resilient team than United would likely have waved the white flag. Even though they didn't win and are now two points behind leaders City, there is plenty of fight in the old dog yet.

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Manchester United

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