So it turns out that Arsenal's reserve team isn't actually as good as an on-form Manchester United. Who'd have thought it? Arsene Wenger fielded a much-weakened side against the defending champions out of necessity rather than choice, but if he had any hope that a lineup featuring whatever Armand Traore, Carl Jenkinson and whatever a Francis Coquelin is against the big guns of United, they were cruelly dashed the instant the sides took to the field.
The hosts dominated from the off, and it wasn't before long that they were ahead thanks to the head of Danny Welbeck, who sauntered straight past a confused Johan Djourou to plant the ball past poor Wojciech Szczesny from close range following a neat flick back into the box by Anderson. However, it looked as though Arsenal would be able to reply instantly, because for whatever reason Johnny Evans decided to drag down Theo Walcott in the box. Possibly he wanted to make things fairer, because that was virtually the first Gunners attack of the match.
No worries for United though - Robin van Persie's shot was weak and fairly central, allowed David de Gea to get down to his right and save, and moments later former Aston Villa man Ashley Young added injury to the penalty-miss insult by jinking past Jenkinson and curling a shot into Szczesny's top corner from 25 yards out, a strike so perfect that the England international started his celebration almost as soon as the ball left his foot.
Wayne Rooney would make it three with a bending free kick (and there was some bad news for the hosts in the form of a hamstring injury to Danny Welbeck), but Walcott would save some face for the Gunners after a total abomination of a first half by taking advantage of a terrible clearance and slipping the ball past de Gea - who should have done better - to make it three one with the last kick before the interval.
If Arsene Wenger and Arsenal thought the second half would bring big changes, well, they were right. Sort of. The visitors did look far more dangerous going forwards after halftime, but that was mostly because United were amusing themselves trying to score as many goals as humanly possible. Szczesny was putting on a show in the visiting goal while de Gea didn't do too badly for himself against the Gunners' suddenly competent attack, but, unfortunately for Arsenal, the wrong floodgate broke first.
Another Rooney free kick made it 4-1, and Nani followed that up within moments by taking advantage of the fact that Arsenal's defenders decided to go play in the midfield for a while, opening up space in the penalty area for the Portuguese to saunter in and chip rather jauntily over Szczesny, who looked rather murderous about the whole affair. Substitute Park Ji-Sung then got in on the act after latching onto a cut-back, before Robin van Persie finally got Arsenal's second... just before Jenkinson managed to get himself sent off for hauling down Javier Hernandez while already on a yellow card.
It wouldn't take long before the ten-man Gunners conceded again, with Rooney blasting home a penalty for his hattrick after Walcott had brought down Patrice Evra, and to top everything off Ashley Young scored his second peach of the match in the dying moments, another lovely curling effort from range that left Szczesny no chance.
So. 8-2 United. That marks, according to Twitter, the first time Arsenal have conceded eight in a match since 1896, when they were demolished by Woolwich 8-0. In that light, this is a sub-pessimal result. In any other... yikes. Some real questions are going to have to be asked about just what the club is doing, but the day belongs far more to United than it does Arsene Wenger chatter. The champions were superb, and with closest rivals Manchester City putting down a marker in Tottenham, they'll have loved their response.
What a brilliant day for Sir Alex Ferguson and company.