Memories of this match are much more pleasant than the eventual outcome of that season, as was the case with the 9-goal match against Ipswich in 1994/95, but the legend of the match forever lives on as one of the most prolific, and hilarious, attacking displays in the club’s history.
Here are 3 things we (re)learned from this match.
Ashley Young used to have flair
You might not know it from the way his United career played out, but Ashley Young once possessed dazzling ability and confidence as a winger. It wasn’t hard to wonder why he had caught Sir Alex Ferguson’s interest when making his breakthrough at Watford and Aston Villa, and his creativity, dribbling ability, speed and skill certainly gave him the tools to succeed at Old Trafford.
He began his career in red with a flurry, being the driving force in an opening day win at West Brom and scoring two absolute stunners against Arsenal. Both goals were curved in from distance without hesitation.
Of course, Young didn’t become the next great United winger. He made himself into a very serviceable player for multiple United managers, which no doubt elongated his stay at the club, but he never maintained the form he found in this match and debut season.
Wayne Rooney in form was must-watch football
Over the last couple years of his Manchester United career it was easy to forget just how prolific Wayne Rooney once was, but this match in particular serves as a brilliant reminder of just how free, creative, and lethal in-form Rooney was. A hat-trick of set pieces and an assist rounded out Rooney’s numbers on the scoresheet, and as United took control of the match it was clear he was the driving force of the offense.
Rooney scored 34 goals and provided 9 assists in 2011/12. Nine of those goals came in the first 6 Premier League games. He’d developed a reputation as a player who scored in bunches, and this was certainly one of those runs.
Sir Alex was the GOAT
Take another look at the starting XI for this one:
De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra, Nani, Cleverley, Anderson, Young, Rooney, Welbeck.
This team does not exactly strike fear. Perhaps hindsight contributes to that with most of this lineup, but even in 2011 it was shocking that any team would put 8 past Arsenal. United lost the league title on goal difference, racking up 89 points in the process, and won the league a year later with the same points tally. When Sir Alex retired, the team’s form plummeted, and many of these players were exposed for their flaws. And yet, this team beat Arsenal 8-2 and nearly won the Premier League.
Problems with bringing in top talent under the Glazers had become quite clear by 2011, and Wayne Rooney had threatened to leave the club just a year earlier, citing poor recruitment as a big issue. The struggles the team experienced post-Sir Alex really emphasize his achievements in his last few years at the club.