Gary Neville is convinced the spirit of 1999 can be equally as important a factor in Manchester United's return to prominence as their Carling Cup triumph.
There is a strong feeling around Old Trafford that the win over Wigan in Cardiff 10 days ago will prove to be invaluable in the development of Sir Alex Ferguson's emerging side.
Neville is not about to counter that theory. But the United captain feels a second, totally different, triumph over the Latics at the JJB Stadium on Monday will have just as great an effect on team morale.
After a backs-to-the-wall display in the face of a torrent of Wigan attacks, United emerged victorious - levelling through Cristiano Ronaldo before snatching an injury-time win courtesy of Pascal Chimbonda's own goal. It was the kind of comeback which typified United's halcyon days under Ferguson, reaching their peak in that incredible treble campaign - first in an FA Cup win over Newcastle United, then in even more sensational fashion to lift the European Cup at Bayern Munich's expense.
"It is the Manchester United way," he said. "It is almost sadistic in the way we make it hard for ourselves but winning matches like we did [on Monday] sometimes give your confidence more of a lift than beating teams by three or four goals.
"We are renowned for getting late winners and it is something we have done a couple of times in the last month or so now, if you include the Premiership game against Liverpool.
"Without doubt, it is the best way to win a game. It gives you a great thrill and hopefully we can carry that feeling through into the remainder of the season."
Unhappily for United, the remainder of the season now means sole focus on securing the Premiership runners-up spot, a legacy of their FA Cup exit to Liverpool, a shambolic European campaign and Chelsea's charge to the top of the table. For all Sir Alex Ferguson's talk of Wigan providing his side with the toughest test they have experienced away from Old Trafford all season, that accolade surely belongs to Middlesbrough, who walloped United 4-1 at the Riverside in October.
The harsh truth for Ferguson is that defeat on Teesside meant United had already dropped as many points in the Premiership as Chelsea have now.
Two further defeats, plus three draws and a postponed encounter with West Ham are the reasons why Jose Mourinho's men have established a 15-point cushion, which could be back to 18 again by the time United tackle Newcastle on Sunday. The odds are too high even for Neville's notoriously optimistic attitude to contemplate overcoming them. Although, after successive third-place finishes, the 31-year-old is determined to at least get close enough to Chelsea to signal the side's intention to be a genuine force next term.
"We have not done badly all season," he maintained. "We have only lost four times and I don't think our points tally is that ridiculous at this stage of the campaign. But we have been up against it for the last three years now because the team who has won the league has gone on an exceptional run.
"We cannot do anything about that, except try to reach that standard and in individual games this season we have proved we can beat anyone. What we are striving for is the consistency you achieve by grinding results out over a four and five-week period when you are not doing so well.
"We are 15 points behind Chelsea now, with only 11 games remaining, so it does look like we won't be able to catch them. But they will drop points and we have to get nearer to them to at least make the table look better than it is now.
"We cannot just let them run away with the league. We need to get the gap down to single figures, put pressure on and make them think about next season."Reuse content