THE routine was all very familiar.
Robin van Persie emerged from somewhere unseen to combine timing, balance and intelligence before hitting his mark with a ruthless and unwavering certainty. This was duly followed by the contented appraisal of a Scottish manager aware that the Dutchman is both a talented striker and a committed ally.
It was a practice perfected by Sir Alex Ferguson - who had brought van Persie to Manchester United in 2012 - and was replicated yesterday by David Moyes. The United manager stopped just short of remarking that he was pwoud, very pwoud.
The last couple of days have been just like old times at Old Trafford. Van Persie announced his desire to stay at the club in an interview for United's matchday programme - part of which was then published on the club's official website - and intimated too that he intends to extend his contract beyond 2016. Given the discomfort this season has brought to supporters, the news that their Dutch striker is keen to stick around will be music to their ears. It is as though they have stepped into the back garden after a fitful night's sleep and been uplifted by the chirpy greeting of a Robin Redbreast.
Van Persie will pull on a United shirt against Liverpool tomorrow and can expect to be saluted by a satisfied Old Trafford support. The Dutchman has been unable to prevent his side from slipping 11 points behind their rivals from Merseyside, but football supporters will still find significant value in signs of loyalty.
So has his manager. In his first term in charge of United, Moyes may well feel as though almost everyone has turned on him and he made sure to register disdain for his treatment from some corners of the English media yesterday. He is a manager that will likely finish the campaign without a trophy but Moyes will still find reward for his efforts; Wayne Rooney agreed a contract extension and van Persie is next in line.
"It's nice of Robin [to say that he is happy to stay]," said the United manager of his 30-year-old top scorer. "I've been telling you [that he's staying] but you've wanted to say or write something different to what I've been saying.
"He is happy here and we are very pleased about that. He has a couple of years to go on his contract and I am sure that [an extension] is something the board will look at."
His own gaze is already set further afield as the Scot considers a summer of heavy spending. The United board has promised their manager enough money to bring in at least four top-end signings - Southampton left-back Luke Shaw and William Carvalho, a midfielder at Sporting Lisbon, having both been linked strongly with moves to Old Trafford.
He will rely on more familiar faces tomorrow as he attempts to nullify the intent of a Liverpool team which is only seven points behind Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea and with a game in hand. It is indicative of how the fortunes of both United and their rivals from Anfield have changed in a year; at this stage last season Liverpool trailed United by 26 points as the latter marched after another league title.
The altered landscape of the English top flight was acknowledged by Moyes yesterday, even if it would appear as though the Scot was using it to his own advantage. "Their league position suggests they're ahead of us. They come here favourites," said the United manager.
It was all very familiar.