Manchester United supporters were offered a 71-minute glimpse into what might have been against Tottenham.
Gary Neville summed it up best while on commentary duty for Sky Sports.
As exciting as the Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani partnership might be for United — even now — the thought of them teaming-up five or 10 years ago would have been a simply mouth-watering proposition.
Ifs and buts, you might argue.
But before issuing a request for tin hats, let’s get this out of way — Ronaldo and Cavani are not the problem for United right now. Far from it, no matter what some pundits might allude to in their quest for column inches.
Even at 36, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo is still one of the most feared goal-getters in Europe.
As for younger model Cavani, meanwhile, the 34-year-old is affectionately known at El Matador — although a more fitting tag would be to compare him to the bull; charging around with great energy for the United cause. Armed with nous and experience, his youthful enthusiasm makes for an endearing combination and a prime Cavani was exactly the striker United had been crying out for.
But where does that leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the long-term?
Under intense pressure following the alarming defeats to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, the Norwegian might well continue looking for short-term fixes in order to hold on to his position and to ease some of the criticism that’s been heading his way.
It’s hard to ignore, though, how that goes against everything he has stood for since replacing Jose Mourinho after his sacking in December 2018.
Coming up three years to that date, Solskjaer is now on thin ice.
And much of the Norwegian’s success as United boss has been built on playing a fluid counter-attack.
Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial — his trusted front three in past seasons — all have pace to burn and £72.9million recruit Jadon Sancho was signed in the same bracket.
For all the undoubted qualities that Ronaldo and Cavani possess, their inclusion has forced United to change tack.
No longer can they sit back, soak up the play and break at lightning speed.
It’s a change that might have been mitigated had Ronaldo and Cavani not had a combined aged of 70.
And although relying on experienced heads might prove to be the only way Solskjaer can save his position in the short term, Rio Ferdinand and others have rightly pointed out that United lack a clear identity. It’s impossible not to note their move away from Solskjaer’s preferred style.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under mounting pressure at Manchester United. (Image: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images) Needs must for United and Solskjaer, you might say, so when Ronaldo and Cavani are fit and firing they probably have to start together.
What next for United and Solskjaer? Have your say in the comments section below.
But with their Premier League title hopes already in tatters after 11 games and Champions League glory, arguably, representing the biggest challenge in world football, might United be better-served in the long-term by restoring the next generation?
Flanking someone like Erling Haaland when Ronaldo and Cavani move on, two of Rashford, Greenwood and Sancho could emerge as global figures in their own right.
It would take a brave call for Solskjaer to revert to Plan A, but that would, ultimately, affirm his desire for the club and the identity he’s always championed.
Sign up to our United newsletter so you never miss an update from Old Trafford this s eason.