Theatre of Dreams? You’re not kidding. A dream for ‘Bomber’, a dream for Morgan Amalfitano and an unbelievable dream for young match-winner Saido Berahino.
A dream for nine-year-old mascot Sam Keeling-Wright and a dream for the 1,500 travelling fans who wondered whether they would ever experience a day like this.
A dream for Steve Clarke and his summer recruits and a dream for West Bromwich Albion, who continue to redefine the parameters of their Premier League expectations.
Yes, for those with Albion in their blood, Old Trafford truly lived up to its sometimes hollow corporate nickname as the Baggies claimed their greatest ever Premier League victory on a magnificent afternoon in Manchester.
That is a bold claim, perhaps, for a team that in recent seasons have won at the Emirates Stadium, seen off two Chelsea managers with memorable victories, battered their bitterest local rivals 5-1 away and cast a regular spell over Liverpool.
But Saturday’s victory against the champions of England on their own patch topped the lot.
Because it was not a backs-to-the-wall, fluked triumph by a plucky underdog – it was a richly-deserved win born of careful planning, genuine talent and an unshakeable belief in what was possible.
And it featured every conceivable element of the perfect day.
There was some fabulous attacking play, some heroic defending, perfect dramatic timing, a blooded centre-back sporting a bandage, an injured centre-forward battling through the pain, a wonderful opening goal from a new fans’ favourite and, best of all, a fantastic winner from a home-grown young striker who the Baggies hope can become a genuine Hawthorns hero.
Fittingly, it was all watched from the stands by the ultimate Albion legend, whose special day became even more magical than he ever dared to imagine.
On the 50th anniversary of Tony Brown’s Baggies debut, it almost seemed written in the stars that the man who scored twice in their last victory at Old Trafford in 1978 would witness something historic at the ground where he first watched football as a wide-eyed youngster.
But it is hard to imagine either he or the travelling Albion army – many of whom were not around for that famous 5-3 game – conceived anything quite like they witnessed.
Thankfully, Clarke did.
The Hawthorns head coach told us as much on Thursday and, while the rest of the country might have smiled at a boss ‘talking the talk’ ahead of a clash with the champions, there was a steel in the Scot’s pre-match stare that told us he was serious about winning.
So Clarke was entitled to an extra-broad smile himself at the end of a day on which his choices off the pitch proved just as crucial to victory as his players’ deeds on it.
He selected a positive line-up despite injuries robbing him of Nicolas Anelka, Shane Long and James Morrison in the 48 hours before kick-off.
And crucially, when he also lost Scott Sinclair with just 13 minutes on the clock, the Scot resisted the temptation to play it safe with Markus Rosenberg, Graham Dorrans or Goran Popov wide on the left, and opted to give Berahino his head.
The decision would prove to be inspired.
The youngster looked at home on the big stage with some neat, confident touches and a dedicated approach to his defensive duties.
And he dovetailed perfectly with the marvellous Amalfitano and the admirable Victor Anichebe, who delivered a superb centre-forward’s display.
Berahino should have made a major impact on the half-hour, when he displayed his goalscorer’s instinct to sneak between two defenders and meet a delicious Amalfitano cross, only for his header to creep just wide of the post.
But that chance confirmed the feeling that, while Albion had absorbed a measure of United pressure early on, they were playing with a belief that victory was attainable.
Stephane Sessegnon, who conjured up another exciting combination of dribbling and pace in his ‘No.10’ role to put himself at the heart of Albion’s attacking efforts, had already triggered a goalmouth scramble with a weaving run down the right and a dangerous cross.
United threatened briefly with two teasing Nani crosses and hit the crossbar through Anderson, although the offside flag had – incorrectly – already been raised.
But Albion could have broken the deadlock late in the first half when the dependable Claudio Yacob headed an Amalfitano corner to the far post, where Sessegnon lashed at his shot and sent it off target.
United had dominated possession in the first half but Albion had defended well and created more, and the confidence they had gained was in evidence early in the second when Sessegnon collected an Amalfitano flick, weaved his way to the edge of the box and teed up Berahino for a shot that was saved by David De Gea.
If Baggies fans feared in that moment that their chance had gone, they were proved wrong on 54 minutes with Amalfitano’s majestic opener.
He collected Youssouf Mulumbu’s pass inside his own half and ran 40 yards before nutmegging Rio Ferdinand, bursting into the box and beating De Gea with a sublime chip.
It was a moment that left supporters rubbing their eyes, but they had just three minutes to enjoy the feeling before Wayne Rooney netted an fortuitous equaliser for United with a free-kick that found its way through a crowd of bodies and into the net.
Anichebe’s aborted header – his only poor moment of the game – and the presence of Hernandez in the goalmouth left the unlucky Boaz Myhill wrong-footed.
It seemed inevitable that United would turn the screw on the back of their equaliser and put an end to the Baggies’ fun.
But instead, it was the visitors who found an extra gear in the wake of Rooney’s strike and tore the champions to shreds in the closing stages with their best spell of the game.
With 23 minutes remaining, one of several superb passing moves ended with Berahino’s moment of schoolboy fantasy, as he collected Amalfitano’s clever lay-off and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner past De Gea to silence 74,000 United fans and send the small bunch of Baggies supporters into raptures.
And it was not an isolated chance. The bandaged Jonas Olsson had headed against the United crossbar and Amalfitano had seen a free-kick clawed away from the top corner by De Gea even before Berahino struck.
Still the United backlash never fully materialised, although there was a crucial goal-line block from Olsson and a ‘goal’ from substitute Marouane Fellaini that was rightly ruled out for offside.
Instead, it was the Baggies who could have added to their tally as Sessegnon fired wide.
It was typical of an afternoon on which the Albion not only claimed an historic victory; they plotted it, they believed in it and they truly earned it.
And it was a day when Clarke’s new-look side offered a tantalising glimpse of their obvious potential.
It was a performance, a result and collection of stories fit for the Theatre of Dreams.
But for Albion, the chance is there to make this their new reality.