Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal. No, this is not the result of an online FIFA game nor an expert playing Football Manager. This was just a regular match on 28 August 2011 which turned out to be anything but regular.
The result was a stunning riposte to Manchester City’s 5-1 hammering of Tottenham Hotspur earlier that day and represented Arsenal’s worst defeat since 1896.
It is hard to imagine now that a side featuring a midfield of Anderson and Cleverley and a wing pairing of Nani and Young would wreak such havoc on a domestic rival, not to mention three of the back four containing Messr’s Smalling, Evans and Jones.
However when the manager is Sir Alex Ferguson, anything is possible. No cries of “attack attack attack” were heard back then, instead this was a simple, standard 4-4-2, football played with high tempo and intensity and vibrant cohesion between the attackers. Ah the good old days.
This was David De Gea’s first season with United and after having a mixed start to his United career with a couple of nervy performances, his penalty save from van Persie when the score was 1-0 to United endeared himself very quickly with the United faithful. His jubilant team mates mobbed him which gave an indication of how important the save was at that time. Who would have thought that United would go on to score another seven goals?
In fairness to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger had injuries and suspensions to deal with but this was a day when United clicked into top gear and had fans leaving the stadium purring at the result and the football played, rather than scratching their heads at baffling substitutions or formations as is the norm nowadays.
For the statto’s among you, Rooney scored a set piece hat-trick (two free kicks and a penalty), Young scored two with Welbeck, Nani and Park Ji Sung scoring the others. Our current no.20 replied late on for Arsenal and Walcott scored earlier.
A very young Carl Jenkinson was sent off 13 minutes from time to further compound the North Londoners misery and made the journey back to North London, that much harder to take.
For United, this result sent out a message to the rest of the league that we would not surrender our title without a fight. Little did we know of the heartbreak to follow that season.