OLD TRAFFORD, MANCHESTER—The Manchester United fans came to Old Trafford to say a final goodbye to a glorious past.
They left hoping they had seen a glimpse of the future.
Nemanja Vidic was given a rousing send-off before he joins Inter Milan this summer.
Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs might yet follow the Serbian defender out the door.
But instead of a final look backwards, United had a group of fearless youngsters to thank for their 3-1 win over Hull City.
James Wilson, an 18-year-old striker, scored twice on his full debut. Tom Lawrence, just 20, was also given a first start. Adnan Januzaj, coming to the end of his breakthrough season, was outstanding. The future is bright.
Wilson, in particular, couldn't have wished for a better start to his United career.
After he turned in his first after 31 minutes, the Stretford End sang, "There's only one James Wilson."
It's not true. It's a very common name. Still, scoring twice on your Premier League debut isn't a bad way of separating yourself from the crowd.
Wilson's goals will steal the headlines. But it was another teenager, Januzaj, who was the star.
Starting on the right, he jinked and dazzled all night. In the second half, he stretched Hull's defence to its breaking point.
Racing half the length of the pitch, he crossed for Wilson to tap in his second—but only after Marouane Fellaini had passed up a golden opportunity to score his first United goal.
It was another disappointing night for the Belgian midfielder. Pushed further forward, his touch let him down too many times to allow him to have much influence on the game.
By the end, some United fans were ironically cheering every time he found a red shirt. He's got a lot to do to win them over.
Vidic endured a slow start to his career at Old Trafford, too. But he disappeared down the tunnel for the final time having written himself into United's history.
The same is true for Evra, Ferdinand and especially Giggs.
If Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement last summer signalled the end of an era, this was another.
The team that won five Premier League titles between 2007 and 2013 and reached three Champions League finals in four years between 2008 and 2011 is finally breaking up.
It will fall on the new manager, probably Louis van Gaal, to build a squad capable of matching those achievements. That is the standard United demand.
For now, though, the temporary manager, Giggs, was just happy to keep his promise to put smiles back on the supporters' faces.
It has been a dismal season. One best forgotten. But the last game at Old Trafford at least ended with something resembling a flourish.
It might have been even better had Giggs, on as a second-half substitute, scored with a late 30-yard free-kick. He had already made his mark with a pass to set up a third goal for Robin van Persie.
It will have reminded many in the stadium of the things a younger Giggs used to do regularly. One final look into the past on a night that was as much about United's future.
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