Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so it was entirely apt that David Moyes put his faith in Sir Alex Ferguson's old dependables to save his job.
Faced with 90 minutes of Champions League football can could have decided Moyes' future, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand rolled back the years while Robin van Persie struck a hat-trick that harked back to the heights of last season under Ferguson.
Olympiacos arriving buoyed by their 2-0 first leg lead, and departed on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline while United can look forward to a mouth-watering quarter-final.
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The stakes were high and the chips were down at Old Trafford, and grizzled old heads must have nodded approvingly when they read the team sheet.
There was 40-year-old Ryan Giggs, as grizzled as any these days, and there too was Rio Ferdinand, restored in the place of Nemanja Vidic who has become something of a liability since his agreement to join Inter Milan at the end of the season.
It may have been unintended by Moyes, but the reality was that not a single player in his starting line-up was his signing or had emerged under him at Old Trafford.
Marouane Fellaini was on the bench, as was Adnan Januzaj while Juan Mata was absent cup-tied.
If Moyes was looking for a statement from those he did select, he could not have been happier with the response.
Giggs was simply sensational in central midfield, with two quite sumptuous long-range passes that created United's first two goals that levelled the scores on aggregate.
Wayne Rooney was hugely influential: he may have moaned at Ferguson's insistence on playing him in a deeper role, but he did so against the Greek champions and produced his most telling performance of the season.
Rooney, picking up one of those Giggs' long-rangers, even managed to pass to van Persie, creating a chance for the Dutchman to fire home in trademark fashion.
David de Gea played a massive part too, in particular a spectacular double save to deny David Fuster and Alejandro Dominguez, who was Olympiacos' one outstanding player.
All over the field there were familiar United performances: Antonio Valencia, making light of a painful-looking shiner; Danny Welbeck, full of incisive running; Michael Carrick, doing those simple things so well.
It was also perhaps indicative that when Moyes did make changes, he still chose those who had made their mark under Ferguson: Ashley Young and Darren Fletcher were sent on to steady the troops, while Fellaini only came on near the end.
The final whistle brought the rare sight, this season at least, of United players smiling: not since exactly 30 years ago against Barcelona had the team overcome a two-goal first leg deficit in Europe.
Turning points in football do not become obvious until months or even years afterwards, so it is much too soon to predict whether this is the moment for Moyes.
The positive note for United fans is that their manager picked the right team for the occasion.
The worry remains though that this was Ferguson's team, and that Moyes still has to make his own mark.