A banner was unfurled long before kick-off in the Stretford End bearing the faces of Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, and Bryan Robson that read 'Standards'. Cristiano Ronaldo raised them.
Ronaldo deserves to be bracketed with Cantona, Keane and Robson, captains from United's 90s hegemony. Many inside Old Trafford would approve if the Portuguese inherited the armband under new management. He leads by example.
Ralf Rangnick stared stoicially when Bruno Fernandes equalised. He rose and put his hands together for both of Ronaldo's goals. The 36-year-old's aura glistened so brightly under the floodlights Jadon Sancho, a budding number seven himself, executed Ronaldo's celebration in synchronicity.
David Beckham, Ronaldo's number seven predecessor, watched approvingly. Rangnick will doubtless field questions about Ronaldo in the Old Trafford press conference room on Friday morning yet there can be no debate about Ronaldo's role. He has scored in all four of the Premier League wins United have recorded since he rejoined in August and claimed the winner in three of them. Ronaldo ensured, for the first time in what seemed an eternity, United players strode off the pitch to the tune of 'Glory glory Man United'.
Patrice Evra was in the studio while Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher stood side-by-side in the dugout in another throwback to United's past dominance over Arsenal. This was United's first league triumph against their old nemesis since Arsene Wenger left in 2018 and brought the curtain down on Carrick's caretaker tenure. He disappeared down the tunnel at full-time to rapturous applause and the sound of his chant.
Rangnick's emergence was low-key and coincided with another Stretford End banner paying homage to the manager many supporters booed less than a fortnight ago. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's name was chanted loudly, repeatedly and deservedly throughout. Carrick emphasised in his only programme notes Solskjaer's legacy was assured despite the apocalyptic last two months.
Clutching a teamsheet and sat next to the football director John Murtough, Rangnick eschewed the glitterati section of the directors' box where Beckham and his second eldest son, Romeo, were sat. Rangnick often had his head buried in his lap, jotting down lengthy notes amid United's disconcertingly familiar first-half performance. When the peripheral Anthony Martial replaced Ronaldo, he appeared to consult his teamsheet.
On a night where a surfer flag was carried across the Stretford End celebrating Solskjaer, aspects of United's performance still suggested he was in charge. The same old problems resurfaced in the first 30 minutes: a rigid 4-2-3-1 formation, the attacking quartet playing a different tune to the back seven, struggling against a high press while incapable of pressing high themselves.
Only Arsenal were comfortable to the point of complacency and when United fluidly strung some probing passes together, Bruno Fernandes equalised calmly in the best piece of play from United for months. Fred has occupied a more advanced role under Carrick and his presence in the area enabled him to lay the ball off to Fernandes.
Fred was involved, for better and for worse, in two of United's goals and two of Arsenal's. Rangnick will be expected to iron out the kinks in a player valued immensely by Solskjaer and Carrick and expected to be a starter for Brazil at next year's World Cup.
Fletcher cajoled the players incessantly and Carrick clapped encouragingly. They were powerless to influence an initially impatient and anxious crowd still haunted by the humblings inflicted by City and Liverpool on their last walks down the Warwick Road. Fred was in danger of being scapegoated again and Marcus Rashford could not conceal his exasperation.
But the crowd kept with them and soundtracked Ronaldo's goals with the 'siiiu' shout the Arsenal supporters had derided before they were treated to it. Ronaldo scored his first goals against Arsenal almost 17 years ago at Highbury aged 19 and tallied four against them in his previous two campaigns with United.
With victory in sight, the din was so deafening the United goalkeeping coach Richard Hartis had to hurtle down the touchline and inform Jesse Lingard he was about to come on. Seasonal cheer was amplified by a rendition of Five Cantonas. United conceded carelessly within two minutes of Ronaldo making it 2-1 and Carrick and Fletcher, a partnership that bossed Arsenal in matches from yesteryear, were again edging towards the pitch
United have shipped all manner of goals from dead-ball situations and the latest was worthy of What Happened Next? on A Question of Sport. With David de Gea prone from being trodden on by Fred, Emile Smith Rowe larruped the ball into the unguarded net and, crucially, the referee Martin Atkinson delayed blowing his whistle until the ball went between the posts.
De Gea rather undermined the severity of his injury by sprinting towards Atkinson once he signalled the opening goal had been awarded. The wait to confirm it was needlessly inordinate. Atkinson has history of erring against United, most recently the inexplicable failure to give them a penalty at West Ham in September.
On this occasion, Martin Odegaard's collision into Fred was so patent the Video Assistant Referee halted the game and summoned Atkinson to the pitchside monitor. Ronaldo stepped up for United's first spotkick since Fernandes endangered spectators against Aston Villa in September.
He converted and then raced to those supporters who had immortalised Cantona, Keane and Robson.