Finally, someone from Manchester United has stuck out his neck and admitted he would take a malicious sense of pleasure from overtaking Liverpool with a record 19th league title.
Step forward Wayne Rooney, gloriously off-message with the Sir Alex Ferguson mantra that it matters only to the fans. "It's something I've been thinking about a lot," Rooney volunteered. "I'm from Liverpool and grew up as an Everton fan so to be part of the team that overtake Liverpool would mean so much."
They are edging closer, and this felt like one of those moments when everything begins to fall into place. There are always half a dozen moments in every season when it clicks for the team who finish as champions and this, for United, may figure somewhere close to the top of the list. They were a man down, having an off-day, and yet still able to concoct the winning goal two minutes from the end.
This is why Ferguson likes to boast no other team in the world score so many late goals: because he knows it is no fluke. It comes from the mentality of being serial winners, of taking responsibility, finding strength at times of adversity and, when others would wilt, rolling up one's sleeves and standing tall. It is the character, built over many years, that wins titles.
"No other club in the country has got that," Ferguson said. "We are fantastic at gritting our teeth and getting something out of a dead or a lost situation."
They ended this match with a left‑back, Fabio da Silva, playing on the right side of defence, Jonny Evans's red card having shunted a midfielder, Michael Carrick, into the role of emergency centre-half. Wes Brown had already gone off with a calf injury, with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael da Silva already missing.
All United had left was a 20-year-old reserve, Oliver Gill, son of the chief executive, David. Yet the team, with 10 men and a shored-up defence, still went looking for the winner.
It came at a point in the match when a steady line of fans were making the same mistake George Best had committed at Camp Nou in 1999: leaving before the final whistle. United's supporters should know better by now. Nani's shot was spilled by Jussi Jaaskelainen and Dimitar Berbatov stabbed in the rebound. Classic Manchester United.
In the circumstances it will figure among United's more satisfying results of the season and now, just at the point when injuries are threatening, they have an international fortnight to recuperate. "Hopefully that will be the biggest break of all," Ferguson said. "Two weeks to patch up the injuries, it's brilliant timing for us."
Vidic, for one, should be back for their next assignment, at West Ham, which negates the three-match ban Evans incurs for the challenge that split open Stuart Holden's knee in the 75th minute. Evans did get the ball first but that is no mitigation when there is such a high and excessive follow-through that, at speed, a footballer's studs connect with an opponent's kneecap. Holden spent the night in hospital and is now awaiting the results of a scan to ascertain the scale of the damage.
Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, was measured in his response, deciding to give Evans the benefit of the doubt, but it speaks volumes that even Ferguson, currently serving a five-match touchline ban for criticisms of referees, accepted it was a red-card offence. "You can't have a 100 per cent complaint because once you raise your foot you are putting yourself in a dangerous area," he said. "The boy has got a bad gash and that justifies the referee sending him off."
The loss of Holden, replaced by Matt Taylor, seemed to have a more detrimental effect on Bolton than Evans's departure did for United. Taylor had a glorious chance in the 85th minute but could not get enough power on his header. Three minutes later, Berbatov scored.
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