With an improving Manchester City investing heavily in players again, the onus was on United to eschew the traditional slow start and dart out of the blocks.
Sir Alex's men did so, beating the Blues at Wembley in dramatic fashion before winning a hard-fought opening league fixture at West Brom thanks to Wayne Rooney and a Stephen Reid own goal.
Injuries to both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic during the 2-1 victory at The Hawthorns prompted some concern ahead of visits by Tottenham and Arsenal, but, as it turned out, defending was barely necessary in those fixtures. And anyway, the centre-backs’ absence simply cleared the stage for a new breed with summer arrival Phil Jones joining Jonny Evans – himself still short of 100 senior appearances – in front of Old Trafford debutant David De Gea.
Similarly, Paul Scholes’ retirement presented academy graduate Tom Cleverley with a chance to shine and how he took it, starting in every August league game for United. Further forward, another home-grown prodigy, Danny Welbeck, played his part in the champions’ impressive opening to 2011/12.
The experience lost with the departures of Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, Scholes, John O’Shea and Wes Brown had been replaced by the irrepressible enthusiasm of youth. The need for wise old heads would come later in the campaign; in August, the fresh energy in the ranks was enough to sweep aside two North London giants.
Orchestrated by the effervescent Wayne Rooney, United played some of the finest attacking football seen at Old Trafford for several years. Against Tottenham, a fine move culminating in a Welbeck header put the Reds on course for a comfortable 3-0 win, completed by further goals from Anderson and Rooney.
The Arsenal fixture will inevitably go down in United folklore, as the new youthful Reds swarmed all over the Gunners to record a remarkable 8-2 victory. Rooney netted a hat-trick, Young bagged a brace of wonder-goals while Nani, Ji-sung Park and Welbeck weighed in with singles. De Gea also had his