On a night when Arsenal's failings grabbed the headlines as far as English football was concerned, a very special performance was produced in Portugal, yet largely went unheralded.
The scoreline in Porto's 1-0 Champions League victory over Malaga doesn't really do justice to just how dominant the Portuguese side were, with one man in particular dictating the game. Joao Moutinho was exquisite in possession, relentless when trying to win it back and, to top it off, scored the only goal of the tie.
Despite producing such displays with regularity this year, the Portuguese is not spoken of in the same breath as Barcelona's midfield three or the exquisite Andrea Pirlo, still slipping under the radar for many outside of Portugal. Had Andre Villas-Boas succeeded in bringing him to the Premier League last summer it's likely that wouldn't be the case, but the breakdown in Moutinho's proposed move to Tottenham has created a window of opportunity for another party to benefit from.
Manchester United would be wise to seize it with both hands, as the Porto man is the kind of balanced midfielder they have been crying out for since Paul Scholes entered the twilight of his career.
In the summer of 2012, Moutinho was a whisker away from joining Tottenham Hotspur on transfer deadline day, only for the deal to fall through at the final hurdle due to complications over the third party role in his Porto contract. Andre Villas-Boas made his disappointment clear in a press-conference shortly afterwards, as the Spurs coach is familiar with his quality from their time together at Porto, but after no fresh move for him materialised in the winter window - and Lewis Holtby was signed - the North London club's interest appears to have cooled.
With the midfielder's desire to move to the Premier League already established, and the club he had previously agreed in principle to join withdrawing their interest in his signature, the stage is set for Sir Alex Ferguson to make his move.
Undoubtedly, United have been excellent domestically this season, but while a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in the Champions League is not a poor result by any standard, the Red Devils were never truly in control of the game.
That is unlikely to change against Europe's best teams any time soon with the relative lack of quality available in the United midfield. True, Phil Jones has proven a useful destroyer alongside Michael Carrick in the middle, but while the Englishman's endeavour to win the ball is admirable, his ineffectiveness once he recovers possession is a clear weak point, and can be exploited by opponents.
Moutinho, on the other hand, has many of those hard-working qualities, but is equally adept on the ball. The Portuguese is energetic when out of possession, and is prepared to press his opponents tirelessly, but when he wins the ball he also has a fantastic range of passing at his disposal.
Against Malaga, he made three successful tackles and one interception to go with his ridiculously good 86.08% pass completion rate, 83.58% of which came in the opposition half. Few midfielders can boast that kind of performance in a Champions League knockout game, and even fewer still when not playing for one of the contemporary European powerhouses.
That performance wasn't a fluke. Over seven Champions League games this season, Porto's number eight has an average pass completion rate of 86.59%, with 85.31% of them occurring in the opposition half, even better than his stats against Malaga. Those passes aren't just simple, 'sideways' passes, with Moutinho creating 25 chances on goal for his team, and nor is distribution his only weapon, with the midfielder completing 62% of his dribbles. Off the ball, he has made 19 tackles, 63% of which were successful, and intercepted the ball on three occasions. At 26, he should be approaching his peak as a midfielder, and the statistics support that idea.
Put Moutinho alongside Michael Carrick in a midfield two for United and they would have a far greater chance of controlling European ties. With the movement of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in front of them, and the option to attack through pacier players like Antonio Valencia on the flanks, the Red Devils could become a truly versatile team, capable of executing 'death by a thousand cuts', as well as through one pinpoint slice, depending on the opposition.
If United progress at Real Madrid's expense in the coming weeks that may not seem like a necessity, but the reality is that Sir Alex Ferguson's side are still at risk of coming unstuck against quality opposition capable of keeping the ball. Playing on the counter-attack can be very effective, but ceding possession against the very best is a risky strategy which is likely to come unstuck sooner or later.
Until United can retain the ball more effectively and carve open stubborn defences with the sort of incisive passing that was Paul Scholes' trademark at his peak, they will always be playing a risky game of averages. Better to be a master of their own fate. They need only look to last year's displays against Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic for a reminder of one potential outcome.
There is no guarantee that Joao Moutinho would slot in to Manchester United's midfield with ease, but the chances of that happening are increased exponentially when the player's attributes suit the team in question. Very rarely do the qualities of a player and the requirements of a team coincide so well as they would appear to with Moutinho and Man United.
There is the added bonus that Moutinho has already expressed a desire to play in the Premier League and his club have proven willing to sell. It will be intriguing to see if Sir Alex Ferguson considers taking the next logical step in the summer. If not, another club will surely benefit from his brilliance. Possibly at United's expense.
United fans, do you agree? Should Sir Alex consider making a move for Joao Moutinho in the summer? Leave a comment below and have your say...