The reputation of Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United FC dynasty was founded on nights like these: attacking, fearless and splendid to watch. FC Porto arrived in the quarter-finals having dropped just two points in a group which included AC Milan, but Sir Alex's fledglings did not bow to reputation.
Without the likes of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, the presence of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs on the flanks – with Eric Cantona, Andrew Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjær also starting – set a distinct tone: United wanted to grab this tie by the scruff of the neck.
Cole's powerful header would have given them the perfect start had it not been for Hilário's athletic tip over, but United did not have to wait long for their opener. Gary Pallister climbed highest to meet a hopeful cross from the left, the Porto keeper fumbled and David May reacted first to bundle in the rebound.
Next it was the turn of the visiting defence to dally and Cantona to seize upon a poor clearance before sweeping past Hilário in unforgiving fashion. Half-time did little to halt the hosts' momentum and they were 3-0 to the good just after the hour. Cantona had well and truly joined the party by now and his exquisite pass out of defence was the catalyst for the goal of the game, Cole playing in the gallivanting Giggs to fire in without breaking stride after a lung-busting run.
United's mercurial No7 was also at the heart of their fourth, laying on Cole with a delightfully weighted pass which the England striker dinked in with aplomb. It was a fitting finish to what Ferguson described as a "fantastic performance". The benchmark had been set – Old Trafford would witness many more nights like this.