Manchester United responded to Sir Alex Ferguson's call to arms by rediscovering the killer touch they have lacked for so long to hammer Wigan Athletic 4-0 at Old Trafford last night.
Rio Ferdinand's first goal in 140 appearances for the Old Trafford outfit provided the launchpad for United's biggest Barclays Premiership win of the season, which included a scintillating masterclass by Wayne Rooney.
The England forward struck brilliantly either side of half time before Ruud van Nistelrooy scored a penalty.
United have lurched from one crisis to another this season but, on the eve of Roy Keane's move to Celtic, gave a glimpse of what could be.
United, who play at Aston Villa on Saturday, moved into second spot and reduced Chelsea's lead to nine points.
Wigan - who have lost five Premiership matches in a row - must realise just how tough the top flight can be.
When former United apprentice Mike Pollitt produced four outstanding stops in the opening half-hour to deny his old club it was understandable a worried frown must have appeared on Ferguson's face.
A fter denying Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Rooney, the best of Pollitt's series of saves came at the expense of Van Nistelrooy, who did brilliantly to keep his volley down only for the Wigan keeper to match the Dutchman's efforts with a stupendous stop to his left.
It proved to be the height of Ferguson's anxiety as, from the corner which followed Ferdinand put his team in front with a deft near-post header Pollitt could only steer further into his own goal.
Ferdinand celebrated like a man whose previous 139 United appearances had yielded precisely no goals.
If Ferdinand was an unlikely hero, Rooney was an entirely predictable one.
Looking at the situation from the outside, it is difficult to see how any club with such a golden talent in their midst could be described as being in crisis.
His first was a solo effort, which even included a slip as he collected Fletcher's pass inside the Wigan penalty area.
Rooney may have been on his knees but somehow he managed to regain control and wriggle past Stephane Henchoz before rising to his feet, beating Leighton Baines with embarrassing ease and beating Pollitt with a thunderous low left-foot shot.
Van Nistelrooy's perfectly placed through-ball sent the former Everton striker clean through for the latter's second goal. Rooney charged through, stared into Pollitt's eyes, then beat the goal-keeper with clinical efficiency, chipping supremely into the net.
Rooney had only just spurned a better chance than the two he took when he rapped Gary Neville's cross on to the bar with the goal gaping.
Had Van Nistelrooy been in generous mood, Rooney would still have collected the match ball. But, after referee Alan Wiley had harshly ruled Pollitt had sent the Dutchman tumbling in the area, Van Nistelrooy took the penalty kick himself. n West Ham United's third away win of the season, 2-1 at Everton, pushed them up to seventh.
Alan Pardew's men are the highest-placed of the three promoted clubs, this win hoisting last season's Championship play-off winners above Wigan.
An own goal by David Weir cancelled out James Beattie's opener and Bobby Zamora's third goal in as many games won the match. ..SUPL: