London - For 45 minutes at Old Trafford on Sunday it was just like old times as Manchester United blew Tottenham Hotspur away with three goals in a ruthless display of attacking football.
For the first time under coach Louis van Gaal, United achieved what they used to do routinely under Alex Ferguson, strangling a shell-shocked Spurs side and clinically killing them off before easing through the gears to a 3-0 victory.
Van Gaal has been criticised for overseeing laboured performances this season, often grinding out results with negative tactics at odds with the attacking traditions of the club.
But, finally, against a Spurs side with their own ambitions of a top-four finish in the Premier League, United broke free of the shackles.
"We have waited a long time for such a victory and it was better because the performance was good against a very good team," Van Gaal told reporters.
United's season looked in danger of imploding after their 2-1 home defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-finals last week but they responded very positively to consolidate their place in the top four.
"I was very pleased but I'm not sure if it was our best. You have to watch it again on video but we played like a team, very determined after a defeat like we had against Arsenal, that we lost because of ourselves," Van Gaal said.
Without the suspended Angel Di Maria, Van Gaal opted to play Marouane Fellaini behind striker Wayne Rooney with Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera anchoring the midfield and Juan Mata restored to the starting line-up.
Carrick released Fellaini to score the first goal and headed the second himself before Rooney took advantage of woeful Spurs defending to burst through the middle and slot home the third.
Mata buzzed around to good effect on the right, Ashley Young and Daley Blind provided width on the left and United's dominance provided a platform for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to enjoy solid games at the heart of the defence.
"To do that in a massively important game against a competitor after such a defeat means I'm very pleased with the players," Van Gaal said. "Maybe it is the game that gives us a fantastic boost."
It was a timely performance given that United next travel to arch-rivals Liverpool before games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal in a difficult run-in.
But if they continue to play the high-tempo inventive football which characterised all Ferguson's successful sides the Old Trafford faithful will be delighted and Van Gaal's doubters will be silenced.