Sir Alex Ferguson has offered his congratulations to arch-rivals Manchester City after seeing Manchester United pipped to the Premier League title.
United had one hand on the prize as the final whistle blew in their 1-0 victory over Sunderland and were readying themselves to celebrate a 20th top-flight crown.
A dramatic finish at the Etihad Stadium left them empty-handed, though, with City netting twice in stoppage-time to secure a sensational 3-2 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
Ferguson and United must now start planning how they will go about reclaiming top billing in English football next season, with the blue half of Manchester having risen to the fore.
Those at Old Trafford are ready to meet that challenge head on, with Ferguson prepared to concede that City are deserving champions.
He told Sky Sports: "We've had some great moments. We've won the title three times on the last day, so today we nearly did it.
"I would like to say on behalf of Manchester United congratulations to our neighbours. It's a fantastic achievement to win the Premier League. It's the hardest league in the world and anyone who wins it deserves it."
A remarkable final day saw the destiny of the title swing one way and then the other and Ferguson insists he never allowed himself to believe that it was heading for Old Trafford.
He said: "You never know. We said it before to the lads, 'Concentrate on our job', that's what we have to do.
"You're going to get certain types of reaction from the crowd, you saw that today from our fans and from the Sunderland fans when City scored their third goal. You just have to put that to one side and concentrate on your own game, which I think we did well."
While understandably disappointed to have ended the season with nothing to show for their efforts, Ferguson believes United can take plenty of positives from their exploits in 2011/12.
He said: "I think we take credit from the fact that we had so many injuries this season. We have coped with that very well.
"For our young players, this is excellent for them, the experience of what happened today. They will be around in five, six, seven, 10 years' time at Manchester United and experience is good for them, even if it's a bad one.
"We accept challenges, we're good at that and we've been doing it for a long time."