By Jonathan Birchall
The sheer, unwavering authority with which Manchester United humiliated Arsenal during their 8-2 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday was such that you'd be forgiven for thinking that we'd never seen anything comparable between these two Premier League powerhouses.
However, only a decade ago did Sir Alex Ferguson's side obliterate the Gunners 6-1 at the Theatre of Dreams as the Scot's 'Treble generation' marched towards their seventh Premier League title. They would only win one more in the five years that followed.
It is that which makes Sunday's win so potentially significant. Indeed, the class of 2001 were laced with silverware and memories of the 1999 Champions League final but that was a group of players, triumphant as it was, coming to the end of their peak. United's current side aren't even close to reaching theirs.
The average age of the team that beat the likes of Henry, Pires and Wiltord 10 years ago was 27, four years older than Fergie's 2011 crop. With the aging Fabien Barthez, Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke as well as only one player under the age of 24 in Wes Brown, the final stage of the Treble team had all the quality of the side that we saw prove so dominant on Sunday but nothing like the same amount of unlocked potential.
Goal.com has taken a look at eight reasons why despite already looking unstoppable, this is only the beginning for Sir Alex's current champions.
|The United Way
|The youngsters at the club, both those who have come through the academy and elsewhere, quite simply seem to get the Ferguson philosophy. 'Not knowing when they're beaten' has certainly been a defining characteristic of the Scot's era but so is the ruthless 'never knowing when they've won' desire to score and score and score. It's what eventually set the Red Devils apart from Jose Mourinho's Chelsea and the willingness of Phil Jones to get forward against Arsenal, as well as Ashley Young's late probing, exemplified it perfectly.
|Strength in depth
|Five of the starting XI against Arsenal on Sunday weren't even at the club last season. Yes, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley were only temporary departees but for almost half of the side to have been relative new faces speaks volumes regarding the quality with which the Old Trafford outfit's squad has been bolstered over the summer. Ferdinand, Vidic and Hernandez were all absent from the pitch at kick-off - the result makes clear how little it mattered.
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|Yet another goalscoring hero
|Dimitar Berbatov will have been resigned to losing his starting spot to Javier Hernandez this season after the Mexican exploded on to the scene at Old Trafford in 2010-11. Yet he, like most others, wouldn't have been expecting to be usurped by the 20-year-old from Longsight. With two goals and a simply beautiful assist in his last two appearances, the youngster is already brimming with potential. We can only hope that the hamstring injury that saw him substituted at the Theatre of Dreams doesn't prove to be too serious.