And yet it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they miss something special, an added dimension, a catalyst. Someone like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Giving United the Blues: Cameron Jerome gives Birmingham the lead
Here was a game United might have won with the talismanic Portuguese. Yet, they never truly found their stride. They required a player to speed up the transition from defence to attack.
Good though they are, Ji-Sung Park and Antonio Valencia do not carry the presence of their illustrious former team-mate. And excellent though Wayne Rooney may be, leading the line alone as a centre forward, it is not a job he appears to relish.
So they settled for a point on a day which, with United reduced to 10men after Darren Fletcher's late red card, might have ended a whole lotworse.
As Birmingham set a club record, extending their unbeaten run in the topflight to 12 games, United missed an opportunity to impose themselves on this season's intriguing title race.
Other than a third-minute strike from Fletcher which was deflected awayby Sebastian Larsson, United were without an answer to the defensivepuzzle they had been set.
Pure delight: Birmingham celebrate their goal at St Andrew's
On 24 minutes, United penetrated City's sturdy lines, but only thanks tomistakes from Birmingham. Stephen Carr ducked under a high ball, arisky business with Rooney lurking. The England striker eagerly seizedhis opportunity, advancing on goal, cutting back and then delivering a pass of sublime precision into the path of Valencia. Only James McFadden, admirably tracking back, prevented the opener.
A minute later, Liam Ridgewell's error allowed Valencia the chance torepay the favour, delivering a perfectly-weighted pass for the onrushing Rooney. Just yards out and with only Joe Hart to beat, Rooney hesitated, allowing Hart to set himself and parry.
Birmingham merely contented themselves with maximising the frustration for United. Yet, on 38 minutes, they did fashion a chance - their first of the half - and as Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes scrambled away Cameron Jerome's strike, they conceded a corner.
It should not have presented a major challenge, but at the first sign of probing, United's defence faltered.
What have I gone and done? Scott Dann lies on the floor after scoring an own goal for the hosts
They could not clear Christian Benitez's header and allowed Bowyer tohead the ball goalwards. It fell invitingly to the feet of Jonny Evans,but he scuffed his clearance directly to Jerome, who thumped home fromsix yards out.
St Andrew's erupted and United withdrew into a collective sulk, epitomised by Fletcher's awful challenge on Lee Bowyer, which rightly earned him a yellow card. United had seemingly absorbed none of their manager's half-timeteam-talk, for within minutes of the restart, they had failed to defendanother straightforward corner.
Making his point: Ferguson=
Though Rooney initially cleared, no-onechallenged Ridgewell for the second ball, and the defender's headerfell nicely for the unmarked Benitez. The Ecuadorian had a glorious chance to add to City's lead, yet saw his shot from eight yards parried by Tomasz Kuszczak.
A miscontrolled pass by Rafael, who ended a promising move by lettingthe ball pass over his foot and out, was greeted with jeers of derisionby an increasingly optimistic crowd.
Their hope surged on 63 minutes when McFadden slipped a ballthrough for Jerome, but with yet another opportunity to add to thelead, Birmingham failed. Jerome hit what looked like a cross but mighthave been a shot; no matter, it did not meet its destination. United were flailing, seemingly unable to impose themselves. Yet amidwhat seemed to be a fruitless period for them, they fashioned anunlikely equaliser.
An undignified scramble saw Bowyer and Roger Johnson charge down shotsin determined fashion. Yet the ball broke for Patrice Evra, who crossedinto the six-yard box. Rooney and Scholes were lurking but in amisguided effort to intercept, Scott Dann turned the ball into his own net.
For a brief moment, Birmingham thought they might be saved, as thereferee's assistant had raised his flag for offside, but referee MarkClattenburg over-ruled his colleague.
United had to endure the final six minutes of normal time, plus six ofadded time, with ten men after Fletcher earned a second yellow card andwas sent off for a senseless trip on Jerome.
EXCLUSIVE: Bowyer says he deserves (yet another) second chance. Does he?PATRICK COLLINS: Is it time for Ferguson to ride into the sunset?Birmingham 1 Manchester United 1: The drama from St Andrew's as it happenedBIRMINGHAM CITY FC