DESPITE the pride and passion which has won Barnsley so many friends, although not many points, their glorious Premiership adventure fizzled out in a disappointing defeat by a hugely unfamiliar Manchester United side.
Champions no more, Alex Ferguson fielded a side which featured as many teenagers as internationals, although the arrival on the hour of unknown midfielder Van Higginbotham did at least mean there was one big name on the pitch.
Captained by 19-year-old John Curtis, and with Ryan Giggs choosing to play a holding role in front of the back three, the only semblance of the real United was the front two of Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham. And once these two had combined in the sixth minute to open the scoring - Sheringham's cross being barely cleared by Scott Jones and Cole turning sharply on to the rebound - they lost interest.
Curiously, Barnsley were unable to take advantage even though their player of the year, Ashley Ward, was giving defender Wes Brown an uncomfortable first start.
Barnsley's only real chance of the first half was snuffed out in the last minute when Raimond Van Der Gouw bravely fell at Georgi Hristov's feet. Instead the only victories the crowd could cheer were the moral ones, like Matty Appleby's coolly grazed header back to his keeper when Cole was lurking, and Martin Bullock's twist and turn that left Sheringham sprawling without any dignity on the turf.
In another mood, United might have come close to the 7-0 thrashing they inflicted on Barnsley at Old Trafford in October. Cole's mis-hit 25th- minute shot needed a smart save from David Watson, and three minutes later Nicky Butt's shot smacked the post. United were typified by Giggs' wild shot which cleared his supporters in the uncovered end and was last seen bouncing down the dale towards the pit wheel.
A light rain drizzled on Barnsley's last half in the Premiership. Determined to ensure it ended with a roar not a whimper, the crowd upped the volume of "It's just like watching Brazil", although the simple substitution of the word "City" gave the United supporters just as much joy.
Nevertheless it did rally the home team briefly and although there was no last hurrah, May did clear Adie Moses' 59th minute shot off the line. That was unkind, but the cruellest cut came with the clinical way in which Sheringham dispatched Butt's deft pass from a tight angle in the 77th minute to make it 2-0.
Still, the Oakwell faithful defiantly belted out bare-chested that they would forever be "walking in a Danny Wilson wonderland", and if their side shows the same spirit next season, they will fulfil the Oakwell belief that they are merely on loan to the Nationwide.
Goals: Cole (6) 0-1; Sheringham (77) 0-2.
Barnsley (5-3-2): Watson; Barnard, Jones, Appleby (Eaden 45), Morgan, Moses; Bullock, Sheridan, Redfearn; Hristov (Fjortoft, 62), Ward. Substitutes not used: Marcelle, Liddle, Bosancic.
Manchester United (3-5-2): Van Der Gouw; Brown, May, Berg; Clegg (Higginbotham, 60), Mulryne, Butt, Giggs, Curtis; Cole, Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Notman, Twiss, Greening, Culking (gk).
Bookings: Barnsley: Sheridan. United: May.
Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).
Man of the match: N Butt.
Attendance: 18,694.Reuse content