FIVE days since storming out of Old Trafford on the back of a heartwrenching defeat in the Champions League, Alex Ferguson will return to that very same stadium tomorrow as the twin pursuit of domestic glory resumes.
The 71-year-old is normally not one to shy away from comments, but the Manchester United manager was clearly dumbstruck by the turn of events in the 2-3 aggregate loss to Real Madrid on Tuesday.
He wagged an angry finger in the direction of the referee at the final whistle, as did Ryan Giggs whose 1,000th senior appearance in football was marred by the Turkish official's controversial dismissal of Nani in the second half when the Red Devils were hanging on to a priceless 1-0 lead.
Defender Rio Ferdinand also fumed at Cuneyt Cakir's decision, sarcastically applauding him in the face. The referee, if he felt overwhelmed in the slightest by 75,000 fans baying for his blood, didn't display any sign of emotion on his face as he trooped off the pitch.
But, as they say, what's done is done. The result is final and now it is Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid that marches on to the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition as the hot favourite to lift the trophy in May at London's Wembley Stadium.
No one knows for sure if United would have gone on to win the game, regardless of whether they had Nani or not. There were still 35 minutes to play after the red card, with the tie delicately balanced on a knife edge.
All credit to Real Madrid, they knocked relentlessly on goalkeeper David De Gea's door and were rewarded with two goals in the space of three minutes.
The scorer of the winning goal? None other than, who else, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese winger who stole in at the far post and tapped in from close range.
The travelling Spanish supporters celebrated wildly, he didn't. Ronaldo merely shrugged his shoulders, mindful of the six glorious, trophy-laden years he spent at Old Trafford previously.
There are footballers and then there are extraordinary ones. Ronaldo belongs to the latter category. He has matured from the cocky, petulant boy that he once was into one of the planet's finest players. Ferguson would love to have him back in his squad at some point and who wouldn't?
For now, it is time for United - 12 points clear in the league - to pick up the pieces and soldier on, starting with tomorrow's FA Cup quarter-final against Rafael Benitez's Chelsea. If this season's two earlier meetings are any indication, when the teams shared 14 goals between them, this could well be another goal fest.
Wayne Rooney, assuming he starts, will look to vent his frustrations against the Blues after being dropped from the starting line-up on Tuesday. The striker gave everyone a reminder of his ability with an audacious long-range strike in the 4-0 hammering of Norwich City last weekend.
Chelsea, too, is also entering this vital match on the back of a disappointing defeat, having lost 0-1 to Romanian team Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday night.
The other three quarter-final ties see league champions Manchester City at home to second-tier Barnsley, in-form Everton hosting relegation-threatened Wigan, and Millwall facing Blackburn Rovers.