It was a measure of the disparity between two formerly fierce rivals that by the end, Sir Alex Ferguson had almost nothing but sympathy for Arsene Wenger.
Whereas Manchester United and Arsenal once contested a duopoly at the top of the Premier League in a rivalry that came to define the period either side of the Millennium, it got to a point where Ferguson saw his team put eight past the Gunners and then proceeded to defend his counterpart from accusations his best days were behind him.
United may have floundered in the five years since Ferguson departed, but their superiority over Arsenal has largely remained intact, at least in the Premier League at Old Trafford, where the Gunners have not won since 2006. It is, perhaps, the venue which raised more questions about the team’s mental strength than any other.
Invariably, no matter the recent form of the two teams or the line-ups, the Gunners would underperform. The 8-2 thrashing of 2011 almost resembled an open wound that reinforced feelings of self-doubt.
Jose Mourinho managed to see off Wenger last season with a stoppage-time winner, but his stock has since fallen at such an alarming rate that he is the manager under most pressure this evening.
It would speak volumes for the current value of both managers were Unai Emery to end a 12-year wait for victory at United and overcome this mental block.
Equally, it would be another sign of United’s inexorable decline under Mourinho, whose self-aggrandising style has never sat comfortably with a club who see themselves as the best in the world.
United have not come close to living up to that moniker since the days of Ferguson, instead aiming to show it off the field with lavish, scattergun spending in a desperate attempt to stay relevant.
There was no greater example than the £500,000-a-week offer to Alexis Sanchez in January, the same month in which Arsenal retained Mesut Ozil on £350,000 a week.
Two massive contracts which have subsequently caused big problems. The contrasting ways in which Mourinho and Emery have handled this issue highlights their styles.
Sanchez will miss Wednesday’s game with a hamstring injury that it is believed will sideline him until the January transfer window. How convenient. United insist the injury is legitimate, but the timing only fuels rumours over Sanchez’s commitment and attitude. That speculation comes as no surprise to those who worked closely with him at London Colney.
Wenger abhorred confrontation and allowed Sanchez to get away with plenty. Mourinho actively seeks it out and so Sanchez has found himself a bit-part player, unable to make the discernible impact his salary screams is necessary.
Ozil is also a peripheral figure, officially ruled out with back spasms. The 30-year-old is considered more of an introvert than a troublemaker and so the issue for Emery is the legacy of being handed down a player on a wage disproportionate to any other at the club.
As with Sanchez, the club’s financial commitment demands a football one, but Emery left Ozil out against Bournemouth and delivered the finest Arsenal performance of his young tenure last weekend in seeing off Tottenham, revealing his current indifference towards the German extended to not knowing whether Ozil was even at Emirates Stadium to witness it.
In three months, Emery has imposed a fresh style of play which, even in its early stages, has yielded a 19-game unbeaten run. United are still suffering an identity crisis under Mourinho after more than two years.
He is still capable of digging out results — last season’s corresponding fixture ended with what has become a trademark play: bring on Marouane Fellaini and get balls into the box. But getting results is all Mourinho has. Once they dry up, there is little — if anything — to recommend him, especially in his current joyless, hostile state.
United usually beat Arsenal at home. On Wednesday, if they don’t, Emery will be the one called upon to show compassion.