Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he had to awaken Manchester United from their slumber as the Red Devils came from behind to beat Brighton 2-1 on Sunday.
Danny Welbeck headed the Seagulls in front against his former side as Brighton dominated the first-half at Old Trafford.
However, for the eighth time in the league this season, Solskjaer's men came from behind to close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City to 14 points thanks to second-half goals from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
"We couldn't find our rhythm. We needed half-time to compose ourselves," said Solskjaer.
"Sometimes after the international break it takes time and then maybe the fireworks have to be lit at half-time."
Only an almighty collapse from Manchester City will deny Pep Guardiola's men a third Premier League title in four years with the runaway leaders needing just 11 points from their remaining seven games to become champions.
But Solskjaer can match United's best league finish since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 by claiming second place.
Victory opens up a four-point cushion over third-placed Leicester, while United hold a commanding 11-point lead over fifth-placed Tottenham and Liverpool to close in on Champions League qualification next season.
"It doesn't really matter what anyone else does, as long as we win and we get our points, we're in second place," added Solskjaer.
"It's a long way up (to City) but we want to consolidate second place."
Just like in their previous meeting this season when United snatched a 3-2 win with a penalty awarded after the full-time whistle had been blown, Brighton were left to rue what might have been.
"I believe in the players and what we're doing and our performances have been consistently good. It's turning them into results that's the challenge," said Brighton boss Graham Potter.
Back-to-back victories prior to the international break had eased their fears of relegation and Potter's men started the more confident side.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was caught on his heels as Welbeck powered Neal Maupay's cross towards goal on 13 minutes and, after his initial effort was brilliantly saved by Dean Henderson, the former England international headed the rebound into an unguarded net.
Henderson was again preferred to David de Gea in goal for United and repaid Solskjaer's faith by tipping Lewis Dunk's header onto the crossbar moments later.
United were a different side after the break as Bruno Fernandes took control of the game.
Robert Sanchez was quick off his line to smother the Portuguese's first effort on the hour mark.
Just a minute later, Fernandes was the architect for the equaliser as he teed up Rashford to roll his 19th goal of the season into the far corner with an accurate finish.
Rather than build on their momentum, though, Solskjaer's side were lucky to escape not falling behind once more.
Welbeck turned a dangerous low cross inches wide under pressure from Harry Maguire, who escaped giving away a penalty after a VAR review.
At the other end, Sanchez nervously parried a Fernandes drive from distance and Greenwood should have done better with the rebound as the ball looped onto the roof of the net.
The 19-year-old has had a frustrating campaign after bursting into the first team during Project Restart at the end of last season.
However, Greenwood showed the impressive predatory instinct he possesses for such a young striker by heading home Paul Pogba's mishit volley eight minutes from time to complete the comeback.