It has long been one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s favourite adages that what matters in football is not a defeat, but how a team responds to it.
Some react to failure by losing confidence or retreating into self-pity. But under Ferguson’s management, United have always managed to use setbacks to make them stronger.
And while defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League final in Rome last year clearly hurt, it is also a motivating factor.
“It is a very bad feeling when you go to a final and lose and that one is a particularly bad memory,” said centre-back Nemanja Vidic.
“You do have to acknowledge it is better to get to the final and lose than not be there at all and that to stand up you need to sit.
But it is hard.
“We all know how we felt. We need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” United’s earliest performances this season raised doubts about their ability to cope, having sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and decided against making permanent Carlos Tevez’s loan deal. But having lost at Burnley, they head into Wednesday’s Champions League meeting with Wolfsburg on the back of seven straight victories.
“Ronaldo and Tevez are quality players, there is no question about that,” Vidic said.
“But it is hard to say whether we have got over losing them. We will probably only know that at the end of the season.
“If we don’t win trophies, people will say it is because they have gone, although that is not necessarily the case.
“At the moment we are doing well. We have had the best start in the four years I have been here.
“There is no question we have quality players but, for me, the really encouraging sign is that we are still not in the best form.
“You don’t want to be at your highest level at this stage. We have to be ready for the most important games at the end.” In the absence of Ronaldo and Tevez, a greater burden has been placed on Wayne Rooney to provide a creative focus, and so far he has responded to the challenge superbly, scoring six goals in seven league games.
“It is wrong that people are suddenly looking at Wayne,” said Vidic.
“He has always been an important player for us so, in that sense, nothing has changed.
“Sometimes he does things the fans don’t see because he is doing a job for the team.
“This year he is even more noticeable because he is scoring goals and has a different role in the team.
“But we don’t need to put pressure on him. We know all about his ability.”