Sunday's line-ups will show how philosophies of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger have never been further apart
Victory in the 2005 FA Cup final brought a moment of searing joy for Arsenal, particularly since they had beaten their great rivals of that period, Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson's side were overcome but it took a penalty shoot-out to settle the issue. Few guessed then that the clubs would diverge so sharply.
The intriguing aspect of that afternoon is that the losers have not gone through a complete overhaul subsequently. Seven of them, including the substitute Ryan Giggs, could in theory take some part in the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium this weekend. For Arsenal, the sole survivor from the 2005 starting line-up liable to be on the field is Cesc Fábregas, although Robin van Persie did feature as a substitute in Cardiff and Jens Lehmann is now back on the books.
Continuity is one of the benefits of success for United. The silverware comes regularly enough for them not to convulse themselves in panic. Transfer dealings have been well-conceived since. It is sometimes necessary to sack a manager, but continuity in the post can deliver a long-term benefit in building up a squad strength that prevents dependence on a single individual.
United's owners will appreciate the £80m Ferguson took in from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo as well as the steady supply of prizes. The unease will be felt by fans wondering whether there will be a suitable budget for the partial reshaping of the squad that is necessary. Matters, however, do appear to tick over.
It looks as if Fábio da Silva has inherited Gary Neville's job at right-back, even if the experienced John O'Shea is also picked in that role on occasion. Whatever the identities of those involved, United have sustained a marked ascendancy over clubs such as Arsenal.
Since that 2005 FA Cup final, they have lost just three of their 15 encounters with Arsène Wenger's side in all competitions. The other 11 games brought nine wins and two draws. United's true rivals of late have been Chelsea and they have an almost identical record against Arsenal during the same period.
Wenger's side were once the Invincibles, undefeated en route to the Premier League trophy in 2004, but there has since been a chronic brittleness that keeps on being exposed. Life resembles a cruel cliche. Even the manager virtually gave up hope of the League title last weekend at Bolton when his side suffered a caricature failing by conceding a winner from a corner in the 90th minute.
So far as fans are concerned, the frustration lies in the fact that Arsenal would happily channel greater funds into the transfer budget if Wenger wished. An established centre-half could be bought in the summer, but the manager normally has as firm a view of how signings are to be made as he does of the way in which football ought to be played. The record purchase seems to be the £15m Andrey Arshavin since José Antonio Reyes was shipped out before his fee reached its maximum of £17m.
The commitment to responsible spending is pleasing, but the quality of the squad has waned. The mind goes back to that FA Cup final of six years ago, when Patrick Vieira's penalty settled the shoot-out. That was also his last touch of the ball for Arsenal before moving to Juventus. On that afternoon, the Frenchman was paired with Gilberto Silva to bring about a combination of steel and knowhow. It has been a while since United expected that sort of confrontation in a match with Arsenal.
Neither Alex Song nor Abou Diaby convinces as a counterpart to the members of that duo in 2005. Ferguson tends towards selecting the more methodical types when playing Arsenal. This season, Giggs was fielded only as a substitute in the wins over Wenger's side in Premier League and FA Cup. United kept a clean sheet on each occasion yet also had the sharpness to score in 2-0 and 1-0 wins respectively.
Perhaps events will turn in Arsenal's favour this weekend. The hosts do still have their good days, which included the defeat of Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League tie.
Even so, Wenger will appreciate better than anyone that a robust core is lacking. United will be as eager as usual to expose the defect.