Results can camouflage wider problems, but they should not. Victory over Blackburn, and a Carling Cup final appearance against Wigan, should not obscure that Manchester United require a midfielder.
Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill have confirmed as much. But now, as the Scot admitted tonight, their need is pressing.
Paul Scholes, the sole playmaker in their squad, will not play again this season. John O'Shea, by trade a defender, but filling in further forward with increasing regularity, is out until March. And now Ryan Giggs, emerging as an influential central midfielder, has been added to the injury list with a hamstring problem.
It meant that Alan Smith was pressed back into service earlier than Ferguson had intended when the Welshman departed after a quarter of an hour. He managed to rekindle his rivalry with Robbie Savage from the first leg but completed a trio - with Kieran Richardson and Darren Fletcher - that, despite their best efforts, was unworthy of a Manchester United midfield.
Indeed, they compared unfavourably with their Blackburn counterparts. Tugay's neat passing and Savage's efficient use of the ball were allied with Steven Reid's forceful approach on the right and the skill of the slight Morten Gamst Pedersen on the left.
The United trio, in contrast, lost possession too cheaply and too frequently. Their salvation lay in their strikers. Necessity's relationship with invention has been established in cliché. Fielding three forwards was a consequence of injuries, but an attacking move nonetheless.
Quick service to the strike trio, at times even bypassing the midfield, was a product in part of the willingness of Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney, flanking Ruud van Nistelrooy, to drop deep and pick up possession.
It was also beneficial, getting the ball to United's most dangerous players as often as possible. Indeed, it was notable that all of United's clearest chances were created by, and fell to, their strikers.
With six days to go in the transfer window, a late purchase is in order, however resistant Ferguson usually would be to a short-term signing.
Cristiano Ronaldo's availability after suspension against Wolves on Sunday, and the energetic Ji-Sung Park's return from international duty offers the prospect of more potency on the flanks, but there remains a void at the centre of the midfield.
Ferguson wrote in the match programme: 'I owe Manchester United my foresight. I am not going to leave this club in a shambles when I go.'
The majority of his costlier signings over the last three years should form part of his bequest to his successor - Rooney, Ronaldo, Park, Patrice Evra and the debutant Nemanja Vidic.
Admiration for Scholes - whose future appears uncertain - may preclude talk of successors, despite his uncertain future, but, in the short term at least, United's problems are exacerbated by his absence. If he does not return, the rebuilding process may need to be accelerated.
Thomas Gravesen's the name mentioned most frequently. Reports of renewed interest in Michael Ballack make sense though it is hard to fathom why Ferguson ever opted against the German (unless, of course, the Bayern Munich man made the decision and preferred to go elsewhere). It is, however, another test of the Glazers' finances and their confidence in their manager.
Reflecting on his enforced substitution, Ferguson admitted: 'It was a bit of a blow because Ryan, after Sunday, was going to be the leader of our team tonight because Darren Fletcher and Kieran Richardson are two young lads.
'They're very competitive players, sometimes argumentative, like their manager. Their goalkeeper has been magnificent. Three of his saves were out of this world. He kept them in this game.'
Mark Hughes was more concerned with Graham Poll's refereeing and two penalty decisions - both in United's favour - at either end.
'Why the first one was given, I have no idea,' he said. 'Ours was more blatant than theirs. We were all getting frustrated with the referee and some of the Premiership referees enjoy their celebrity status and that's dangerous.
'In the end, United went to five at the back - I don't think you see many United teams do that at Old Trafford - which showed the effort we put in.'
United struck early in each half. Firstly, Giggs' simple pass picked out the advancing Rooney who, after a solo run, looked to find van Nistelrooy. But the pass was behind the Dutchman and it required a loose touch from Michael Gray to take the ball into his path for a predatory finish.
Blackburn benefitted from a similar piece of poor control to draw level. Gray's cross only found Richardson who, oddly, opted for the overhead kick to clear. It rebounded off the unfortunate Wes Brown into the path of Reid, who drove it past Edwin van der Sar.
Manchester United's purposeful start to the second leg was rewarded with a well-taken winner from Saha, displaying nimble footwork and excellent technique to volley in Rooney's deft cross.
The winning margin would have been greater but for a hat-trick of superlative saves by Brad Friedel from Van Nistelrooy. They began with a rarity - a penalty the prolific striker did not score - followed by an athletic stop from a downward header, following Saha's cross, and, when Rooney's clever pass beat the offside trap, a fine block from the United top scorer's shot.
The other noteworthy incident of a predictably confrontational clash requires more guesswork. Events in the Old Trafford tunnel have been controversial before - remember Pizzagate? - and they may be again.
The half-time whistle, and a few choice words directed by Rio Ferdinand to Savage, already involved in an altercation with van Nistelrooy, brought tensions to a head and provoked a headlong charge for the tunnel, though Tugay maintained a leisurely stroll.
Given the myopic tendencies of everyone involved in such incidents, it is hard to imagine that any facts will emerge. More events behind closed doors - during the last six days when signings are permitted - will be still more significant.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Brad Friedel - Three world-class saves illustrated why it is a shame he will not be going to the World Cup.
UNITED VERDICT: The banned Cristiano Ronaldo and the injured Ji-Sung Park cannot return soon enough, but it will be interesting to see if Ferguson fields three forwards again away at Wolves.
BLACKBURN VERDICT: The difference between the sides lay in the two forward lines with Blackburn's, lacking the hamstrung Craig Bellamy, woefully blunt. With Shefki Kuqi's honest toil bringing no reward, Hughes opted to finish the game with a midfielder - Pedersen - up front instead.