To paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson’s gasping observation. Matchplay golf . . . bloody hell. There was a period on the final afternoon of the 42nd Ryder Cup here at Le Golf National when the nervous nail-nibbling just about reverberated like a musket volley.

A day that had ebb and flow, nip and tuck and more swings than the Benny Goodman Band finally concluded with the ultimate glory for Thomas Bjorn’s Europeans. But they had to work for it. History tells you that a four-point lead going into the singles can be as fragile as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The hosts were out in front but they were not out of sight.

In the end, the 10-6 advantage forged over the first two days gave Europe enough of a cushion as they staved off an American flurry to win 17½ - 10½, recapture the trophy and ensure that the USA have not won on this side of the Atlantic since 1993.

It was perhaps fitting that the imperious Francesco Molinari secured the winning point as the blue began to flow after a spell of red alerts. Well, he was actually handed that point. A dismal Phil Mickelson plonked his tee-shot at the 16th into the water when three down and conceded. Molinari became the first European player to win all of his five matches.

It was a superb Italian job . . . but this was a true team effort. Every single player contributed at least a point over the three days as Bjorn’s canny decision-making and trust in his battle plan reaped the rewards.

An effervescent Sergio Garcia could have nabbed that decisive point too as he moved two ahead with two to play against Rickie Fowler. Mickelson’s concession ahead of him, though, meant Molinari beat the Spaniard to it. After all the muttering and moaning about his inclusion as a wild card, Garcia’s displays over the weekend proved the doubters wrong in emphatic fashion. He is now the event’s record scorer with a haul of 25½ points.

The USA had a mountain to climb but team captain, Jim Furyk, was confident his men were up to the task. “I saw a lot of belief in their eyes,” he said prior to the singles. Requiring a mighty eight points to retain the cup, it was time to fix the bayonets, be stirred by the reveille and go on the charge.

The opening salvo was rousing. The brilliant Justin Thomas rattled in a raking birdie on the first hole in the top tie with Rory McIlroy to deliver an early show of defiance. McIlroy missed from five feet to halve the hole. It wouldn’t be the first one that got away from the Northern Irishman during a ding dong skirmish.

The opening exchanges were not particularly encouraging for Europe. Paul Casey put his third shot of the day into the water, Tommy Fleetwood was struggling to conjure the majesty of the first two days and Justin Rose was down early on. Amid the concerned keeks at scoreboards you half expected a representative from the Ministry of Information to start sticking those ‘keep calm and carry on’ posters up on the stands.

Calm heads were required in the top match. It would have been easy to lose them as Thomas and McIlroy, in an absorbing clash, shaved the hole on countless occasions as the tie went to the 18th. Thomas’ brilliant drive on a treacherous hole upped the ante. McIlroy’s tee-shot into the bunker which found a plugged lie cost him dearly.

His attempted salvage operation rolled back into the sand and his go-for-broke approach skittered into the water. The US had the first point of the day. “It was an unfitting way for that match to end,” said Thomas.

Elsewhere, it was all happening. Casey earned a half from his tussle with Brooks Koepka but the USA swiftly got to within a point of their hosts as wins for Webb Simpson over Rose and a six-under 5&4 romp for Tony Finau over Fleetwood got pulses racing.

Tiger Woods, displaying the kind of grim, downbeat body language you’d get at a post mortem, showed his first signs of life with a jubilant fist-pump on the ninth after an eagle that got him to within a hole of Jon Rahm. Dustin Johnson’s epic putt of some 60-feet on the 11th, meanwhile, against Ian Poulter kept things all very tight.

Nothing was tight about Danish rookie Thorbjorn Olesen’s thumping 5&4 win over Jordan Spieth which gave Europe their first full point and condemned Spieth to his third singles defeat in three Ryder Cup appearances.

There were groans of despair when Rahm three-putted the 16th as his lead over Woods was sliced to a hole again. The Spanish rookie took his frustrations out on his next tee shot. A colossal clatter of some 360 yards and a flick to a few feet spawned a match-winning birdie as Woods suffered his fourth defeat of the weekend.

“To beat Tiger, one of the greatest, if not the greatest and get a pivotal point is the best feeling of my life,” Rahm gushed. Europe were inching their way to victory.

Poulter, pumping his chest like a man attempting to resuscitate a stricken colleague, was trying to fend off the pesky Johnson, who holed another massive putt on 16 to keep clinging on. Poulter did it with a birdie on the 18th and Europe were within a point of glory.

When Garcia and Molinari both moved into unbeatable positions in their respective matches, the boisterous celebrations could begin.

They’re probably still going on . . .