Ferguson was well aware that, when visiting Highfield Road, championship contenders often play beneath their capabilities. Even Liverpool used to stride through Europe only to stumble inexplicably here, where you can hardly say the atmosphere is intimidating. Yet United's record over their previous seven visits was: won five and drawn two. Even so, Ferguson was not over-confident.
In anticipation of an awkward game, he said that only up to a point was he comforted by having seen United recently get good results without offering exceptional performances, save only the potent interventions of David Beckham, absent yesterday after a training injury.
No one wanted to interrupt United's progress more than their former player, now manager of Coventry, Gordon Strachan, who had obviously instructed the team to frustrate United as much as possible early on and break quickly, which worked effectively all the time John Salako was making the running. Nevertheless, Steve Ogrizovic's brave blocking of the escaping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the crossbar, hammered by a searing long shot from Paul Scholes, saved Coventry when United countered at pace.
Once Eric Cantona had decided that he had seen quite enough of all this charging around, United looked a better, more organised side.
In spite of being without Dion Dublin and Liam Daish, Coventry held the lines in defence impressively, which made it all the more unfortunate for them that the referee refused them a penalty five minutes after the break when Darren Huckerby pursued a long pass from Noel Whelan. Going into the penalty area, he was impeded by Gary Neville but gamely tried to stay upright before falling. The referee was unconvinced and United rode their luck.
Ogrizovic supported his defence splendidly, twice blocking Gary Pallister from three yards though to no avail, for after an hour Giggs regained the ball after seemingly losing control and unleashed a remarkable 30- yard shot high over Ogrizovic and into the top corner. It also surprised Ferguson, who admitted afterwards: "I've never seen him have a go like that with his right foot." Strachan was similarly impressed, "but that's the difference - they've got a squad of internationals while we are struggling to raise a team."
It was perhaps inevitable that later Giggs should fail abysmally to assure United of their winning points when Solskjaer laid the ball carefully to his feet immediately in front of goal. So United's security was left to Solskjaer who admittedly fed off some neater footwork by Giggs to hit in a loose ball from within the penalty area. It was punishment beyond the call of Coventry's efforts.Reuse content