For some of Fulham's players this sudden subversion of the game's norms amounted to a near-religious experience. John Pantsil, the Ghanaian right-back and devout Catholic, ran to all corners of the ground to blow kisses to the crowd.
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United's sense of panic, borne of the way they had folded at Old Trafford seven days earlier, permeated every facet of their performance and they must now entertain Aston Villa fully conscious of the fact that, after Liverpool's consummate win, a third successive title is perilously close to being thrown away.
The one factor in their favour is that Villa are even more flaky than United are at this juncture in the season; the negative is that the match does not come for two weeks, an annoyingly long time for Sir Alex Ferguson and his players to have to dwell on their ineptitude here.
Ferguson was not about to disguise the magnitude of defeat, but he was kinder about his team's performance than he might have been, after Danny Murphy's penalty following a blatant Paul Scholes handball, and Zoltan Gera's decisive second-half strike inflicted more grievous harm on United's Premier League juggernaut.
'I was disappointed with the first half, I must admit,' he said. 'We didn't get started at all and that's cost us the game. They were lively and they got stuck in, and we expected that. They lost 4-0 to us a few weeks ago so we expected a response from them. We didn't meet that challenge. I think we can thank Edwin van der Sar for keeping us in it.
'In fairness to the team, in the second half they responded to the half-time talking and I think we were unlucky not to get something out of it. Their goalkeeper's made some terrific saves but we've missed a few chances ourselves. It's inevitable that one of their counter attacks will put you in trouble, and that cost us the game.
'We did really well and we were unlucky. If they'd have got the goal back then they may have even won it. In fairness they kept going and credit to them for that.'
Ryan Giggs, his captain on a grim day, was similarly sanguine. 'We didn't expect that result,' he said, but added of Chelsea's 1-0 slip-up at White Hart Lane: 'It's better than them winning. We've got to do our own job, not worry about the teams around us. It's still in our hands.
'We're obviously disappointed with the result. After losing last weekend, we wanted to come here and put on a good performance. We didn't do that in the first half – our passing was sloppy and our movement wasn't good enough. We just couldn't get it going, the tempo wasn't good.'
Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who stifled the efforts of Rooney, Ronaldo and the rest of United's celebrated forwards, said: 'We were a little lucky with one or two decisions but I think we deserved to win. I think the feeling from kick-off was that if we didn't get something out of the game it was never going to happen for us.'
Schwarzer still believes Ferguson's side will clinch the title. 'You could see even with 10 men they are a world class side,' he added. 'If you can get a scalp of Manchester United's calibre you're on a winner and they're the ones that look bad. But that's why they're one of the best teams in the world, if not the best.
'I suppose from the title side of things, it's still in their own hands. We were lucky in that we got them on an off day.'
Compounding problems for United was news of an injury to Dimitar Berbatov. Berbatov has been pulled out of Bulgaria's 2010 World Cup qualifiers away to Ireland and at home against Cyprus because of a worrying ankle injury.
'There's no chance of Berbatov playing against Ireland and Cyprus,' Bulgarian national team doctor Mihail Iliev said last night.
'I've spoken with Manchester United's medical staff and they informed me that he'll need to rest in the next two weeks and his foot will be immovable during that period.'