Much has been written about Manchester United's frailties following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer. But, against Sunderland on Saturday, David Moyes's side showed a steely grit and determination that proves they should still be considered genuine Premier League title contenders this season.
After the manager-less Black Cats took a shock lead through Craig Gardner with less than five minutes on the clock, the reigning champions trailed for 50 minutes, before battling back to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light.
An inspired performance from Adnan Januzaj - who marked his full debut with an impressive brace - earned United all three points against the winless Wearside opponents, and in doing so, ended the club's run of successive league defeats, to move them back into the top half of the table.
Whilst confidence among Manchester United supporters is as low as it has ever been in the past 20 years, Saturday's showing should provide reason for optimism, with the players' 'never-say-die' attitude demonstrating an innate ability to roll their sleeves up and get the job done.
It's a 'win-at-all-costs' approach that was ingrained by the former manager, and one that Moyes must cultivate, as the pressure that comes with coaching the most successful club in England continues to grow.
Winning ugly, and when the chips are down, is an attribute needed for any title challenger, and Manchester United boast that stubborn resilience in abundance.
"Everyone dug in, it was a great performance and a massive three points," reflected defender Phil Jones in an interview with MUTV after the game. "We were put on the back foot right from the first minute, and perhaps we didn't get out of the traps as well as we should have done.
"They were fired up, and perhaps we didn't expect it quite as much as we should have in the first 10 minutes. But once we got to grips with the game, I thought we played some terrific stuff.
"That was the sign of champions out there. When your backs are against the wall and everyone's raising questions, a performance like that puts the record straight."
Sunderland also found David de Gea in exceptional form at the weekend. With the score still poised at 1-0, the Spanish goalkeeper made a world-class save to deny Emanuele Giaccherini from doubling the hosts' lead.
De Gea's improvement is a timely boost for a Manchester United side that has struggled defensively at times this season, and will prove invaluable to Moyes's men as they continue their climb up the Premier League table.
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