It was just like playing a game of FIFA set on ‘Beginner’ and it happened on this day in 2011.
Manchester United had humiliated Arsenal in the Premier League before, famously winning 6-1 against their fiercest title rivals in February 2001. But the 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford on 28 August 2011 was another level above even that and still lives strong in the memory.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s United were reigning champions fresh off a record breaking 19th English league title, surpassing Liverpool’s record of 18 that had stood since 1990, and had been to a third Champions League final in four seasons just three months earlier.
There had been changes, however. Edwin van der Sar and Paul Scholes had both retired at the end of the previous campaign, although the latter would surprisingly return a few months later.
John O’Shea and Wes Brown had also been sold, while Nemanja Vidic would miss most of the season as a result of injuries. David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young represented major new buys for a fresh chapter, and Danny Welbeck had also become a firm part of the first team.
Welbeck, in his only his fifth Premier League start for his boyhood club, scored the opening goal of the game after 22 minutes. That was immediately followed by 20-year-old De Gea, whose start to life in Manchester had already been tough, saving a penalty from Robin van Persie.
This spell proved decisive in the outcome of the game as Young scored his first United goal with a curling right-footed effort just moments later. The home side never looked back. Arsenal, defensively weak and utterly hopeless throughout, criminally just stood back and let them.
Young, in what still remains arguably his best ever performance in a United shirt eight years on, soon assisted Wayne Rooney with a simple free-kick routine – Rooney’s second goal of what would become a phenomenal 34-goal campaign in all competitions.
Theo Walcott did pull one back for the Gunners deep into first half stoppage time, but a second half collapse turned the fixture from disappointing away defeat into full-on embarrassment.
Rooney, Nani and Park Ji-sung all scored in a six-minute spell just after the hour mark. The score-line matched the 6-1 game from 10 years earlier, although 20 minutes still remained.
Van Persie made up for his earlier penalty miss by rifling an effort past De Gea on his way to 30 Premier League goals and the season’s Golden Boot, but Carl Jenkinson was then sent off for Arsenal and United piled on further misery as Rooney completed a hat-trick with a penalty.
It was left for Young to complete the scoring, a goal not dissimilar to his first, in stoppage time at the end of the game. His contribution that afternoon stood at two goals and three assists.
United had and still have only ever scored more goals in a single Premier League game on one occasion – that was in 1995 against Ipswich Town, who were eventually relegated.
Largely thanks to Van Persie’s goals over the course of the campaign, Arsenal recovered sufficiently from their Old Trafford pummelling to finish third, an improvement on the season before, and qualify automatically for the Champions League group stage.
Van Persie would, of course, be snatched from then by United the following summer after being beaten to the 2011/12 title on goal difference alone, becoming the final piece of the puzzle as Ferguson’s team blew away Manchester City to win a 20th league title.