There will come a time when Ryan Giggs is stood besuited before the TV cameras on a touchline somewhere in Europe as Manchester United fans sing his name and reminisce in the stands above, as they did for Roy Keane in Lisbon. Mercifully for United time is still waiting and the songs are not just for what the indefatigable Welshman has accomplished for the club in days gone by.
Giggs struck a superb equaliser for Sir Alex Ferguson's side as their latest quest to dethrone Barcelona at the pinnacle of European football survived a stern examination by Benfica. A 27th Champions League goal, at the age of 37 years and 289 days, brought another record for the oldest scorer to grace the competition, overtaking Raúl with a goal in 16 successive seasons at the highest level of European competition. His first and second had arrived 17 years ago to the day, in a 4-2 victory over Gothenburg.
This was also a night to savour for Anders Lindegaard, the Danish goalkeeper whose promise has been largely overlooked amid the scrutiny on David de Gea this season. With the Spaniard rested for Sunday's Premier League visit of Chelsea, Lindegaard excelled. Two outstanding late saves, followed by a glaring miss from the substitute Nolito, contributed greatly to an important point against arguably United's closest rivals in Group C.
Benfica may not have the economic power to enhance a record of six European Cup final appearances, the last coming 21 years ago, but they presented another problematic night for United. Quick to surround Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher whenever the hub of United's midfield gained possession, Jorge Jesus' team disrupted the visitors' rhythm for much of the first half. It required the excellence of Giggs and, at the opposite end of the pitch and age-scale, several vital interceptions from Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans to deny the Portuguese club a merited interval lead.
A new, youthful and vibrant era has been the narrative of United's finest start to a Premier League season but their first outing in this season's Champions League involved seven of the side soundly beaten by Barcelona in the final at Wembley last May. As an exercise in recuperation ahead of Chelsea, it was a policy that paid dividends for the United manager.
Initially Lindegaard's biggest problem was the assistant referee behind his goal, who insisted the United goalkeeper move a towel further into the corner of his net.
He was assisted by a diligent United defence, however, with Smalling denying the impressive left-winger Nicolas Gaitán and then Pablo Aimar with last-ditch challenges and wasteful finishing from Gaitán. After that the Dane saved well from his first test of the night, when Oscar Cardozo shot low through a crowded area. The next confrontation between the two produced a resounding victory for the Paraguay centre-forward, however.
Gaitán instigated the breakthrough with a delightful cross-field ball with the outside of his left foot. Cardozo provided a finish to compare, controlling with his chest, shaping to cut inside Evans with his left foot and then going on the outside before beating Lindegaard with a powerful finish with his right.
Just as Benfica thought they had the ascendancy, Giggs illustrated why he did not follow Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar into retirement at the end of last season. Antonio Valencia attacked down the right and found the Welshman inside. The Portuguese side's defence backed off with fatal consequence as the veteran strode on and sent an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
Giggs almost delivered a second outstanding goal midway through a far more open second half. Collecting a pass from Wayne Rooney, who was less potent than in recent weeks in the lone-striker role, the midfielder ghosted past three defenders inside the area only for Artur to divert the shot wide.
Fletcher, making his first start since contracting a virus in March, and Valencia, also tested the Benfica goalkeeper as United's threat improved greatly after the interval.
It was Lindegaard who produced the saves of the night. Benfica continued to take the game to United and a rapid counterattack involving Gaitán and Aimar ended with Nolito striking the ball low towards the far corner and the Dane making a superb stop to his left. He then tipped Gaitán's curling effort from the right over the bar and was reprieved when Nolito shot wide from only six yards in the dying seconds as United claimed, in the circumstances, a welcome point.