SO now United must ensure they aren't faulty in Basel or it will be all over in the Champions League.
Fergie's men need to take at least a point in Switzerland in their final game to reach the last 16 knockout stage.
Any hope of finishing top of Group C has surely gone out of the window. Just getting through is what it's all about now. And this was supposed to be an easy group.
It will be a nail-biting occasion in a fortnight because United have been far from convincing in Europe this season. This was their third draw in five matches of a disjointed campaign.
A 60th-minute equaliser from Argentine veteran Pablo Aimar clinched qualification for Benfica and they thoroughly deserved their share of the spoils.
Wayne Rooney's absence due to a hip injury didn't help United's cause and the suspension to Nemanja Vidic again showed up their deficiencies at the back.
The manager believes he has the strength in depth to cope with such adversities but it doesn't look like it.
The combination of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones shipped three at home to Basel in September, and here they let in another two.
Poor Jones had a bit of a nightmare.
After 10 days away with England in which boss Fabio Capello compared him to Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro, he came back to earth with a hefty bump.
Jones it was who put through his own goal to give Benfica a shock lead inside the first four minutes.
United's defence was stretched as Maxi Pereira exposed a gaping hole on the right and Nicolas Gaitan charged into the box. His low, hard cross took a deflection off Patrice Evra and when Jones stuck out his left leg, the ball flew off his shin into the net.
It was Jones' first goal in a United shirt but, unfortunately, at the wrong end.
As for Berbatov he was doing a lot of moaning and very little else until he climbed to meet Nani's cross on the half-hour and headed into the corner.
It was his first goal for three years in the competition but United did get the rub of the green as the Bulgarian was a yard offside yet the linesman's flag stayed down.
It was lively stuff, and thoroughly entertaining, yet the atmosphere around Old Trafford was curiously muted and reflected the edginess in the home team's performance.
Only the Benfica followers were making any noise until Darren Fletcher gave the place a lift when he put United in front on 59 minutes.
The Scot made a late run to meet Evra's cross and, though his shot was half-stopped by Artur Moraes, the ball ran loose and Fletcher hit it home.
It was up to United to close out the game but instead they switched off and Benfica quickly equalised after a terrible clearance by David de Gea.
The keeper only managed to strike Jones' less than perfect back pass as far as Bruno Cesar who dribbled straight into the box.
His ball in hit Ferdinand right in the bread basket and Aimar, 32, earned his dough with a volley into the net.
Berbatov had a chance to win it when all alone from Fabio's cross but he fired over.
And, in a final throw of the dice, Fergie decided it was time for Javier Hernandez.
He replaced Antonio Valencia in a last attempt to get the winner but Benfica also withdrew Aimar to see out the last 10 minutes.
That was enough to secure the point which was more use to them than United.
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
STAR MAN - PABLO AIMAR (Benfica)
MAN UTD: De Gea 6, Fabio 7, Evra 6, Jones 5, Ferdinand 6, Carrick 6, Young 6, Fletcher 6, Valencia 6, Berbatov 7, Nani 6. Subs: Hernandez (Valencia 80) 6, Smalling (Fabio 82) 6. Not used: Lindegaard, Rafael, Gibson, Giggs, Park. Booked: Fletcher, Carrick.
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