Although second place was a guarantee for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United side despite the outcome of the match, Sunday's game against Wolverhampton Wanderers proved to be an afternoon infused with emotion.
In what was an extremely loud Molineux Stadium, 4,500 fans were in attendance to bid farewell to their loved Nuno Espirito Santo after he announced he would be departing the club after four years at the helm – yet it was United who began on the attacking front.
United's makeshift team, (primarily caused by the Europa League final being in a mere three days time) passed the ball about confidently in the opening stages, with academy graduate Anthony Elanga blazing over after finding himself in a pocket of space.
However, that chance was just the first of three for the Swede, and he made no mistake in the 13th minute after thumping a header into Rui Patricio's far corner thanks to an inch-perfect Daniel James cross.
Yet this goal seemed to spark Wolves into life. The home side began to dictate the tempo and possession of the game – the pressure paid off in the 39th minute when Fabio Silva played the ball through to Nelson Semedo, who scored his first goal for the club.
United almost went ahead again after Brandon Williams raced through on goal before striking the ball straight at Patricio. Yet the momentum continued to build and the away side were rewarded in the 4th minute of stoppage time – VAR deemed Romain Saïss' tackle on Donny van de Beek worthy enough to overturn the referee's initial decision and give a penalty.
Juan Mata, who was potentially making his final appearance for United, dispatched the penalty with precision and panache. It was a joyous moment for the Spaniard who had notably been going through a difficult time in his personal life.
The second half fizzled out into a typical end-of-season encounter, with United securing the victory on the final day of the Premier League season – but what ideas can we take from this game?
The difference in United's home and away record
The idea that your home record should be superior to your away record has been completely thrown out of the window this season. United, (and not just them!) have found it much easier away from home throughout the 2020/21 campaign.
It was a difficult season at Old Trafford as Ole's men won on only nine occasions, drawing four games and losing six in the process. This shoddy run also included a humiliating 6-1 defeat to Tottenham and a 2-1 defeat to bottom-of-the-league Sheffield United in October and January respectively.
From this poor run at home, United 31 points – six points less than they achieved at home in the 2019/2020 campaign.
Alternatively, United became only the fourth side ever to go a full top-flight season unbeaten on the road, showing high levels of grit and determination.
Away from Old Trafford, United picked up 41 points across this season, which is ten points more than they managed to get at home. Also, this is a whopping 12 points more than they managed on their travels in the previous season, showing great signs of improvement.
This unbeaten record consisted of twelve victories and seven draws, and when asked about the record the United boss said, "It was about time we did it, we haven’t done it before. What an achievement by all the players, they’ve been excellent and I knew we put this record on the line by making all these changes but we had to. One because we believe in these players, and two because the other players that have played so much this season needed an energy boost for Wednesday."
It may have been a tricky season at the Theatre of Dreams for United, but if they can take their away record into next season and improve at home, then the future is looking bright for Solskjaer's side.
United never fail to stick to their traditions
United has always been a club that has provided opportunities to those that deserve it, and giving academy graduates their debuts is something that is firmly rooted into the history of the club.
Will Fish and Hannibal Mejbri were both given their first-team debuts against Wolves, whilst Elanga and Shola Shoretire were also handed more minutes.
This now means that exactly 50% of all United players since 1939 have come from the academy, and the club is showing no sign of slowing down in realising the potential and talent of their youth.
Following the game, Elanga said, "My debut's still not sunk in yet. The fact I've scored today, that's still not sunk in yet either! It's just an amazing feeling, starting in the Premier League for the club that I've supported since I was young. I'm just so happy.”
Furthermore, after making his debut for the first team, Fish said, "I've been at the club for 10 years now. Every day in training, you work hard and this is the reward that you get. I really enjoyed it. It's the sort of feeling that I've never had before. Nerves, a little bit, excitement, but when you're on the pitch it always goes away and you focus. It's a big day for me and my family. We're all big United fans."
Yesterday's squad included ten academy graduates, and it is refreshing to see that Solskjaer has perfected the balance of both improving his side and providing opportunities to the youth.
Mata got the send-off that he deserves
After David Moyes signed Mata for £37 million back in January 2014, the Spaniard has proven to be a loyal servant to the club.
You have to possess bags full of talent, and also continuously work hard, if you want to stay at United for seven years – and that's precisely what Mata has done over the years at Old Trafford.
Although United's number 8 notably lost his blistering pace towards the latter stages of his time in Manchester, the World Cup winner oozed class every time he took to the field for The Reds.
Mata has scored 51 goals during his time at Old Trafford and has given the Red Army many a reason to cheer – most notably his out-of-this-world brace at Anfield to send United fans and teammates into delirium.
However, this season has proved to be a difficult one for Mata for off-the-field issues, and the Spaniard blew a kiss to the sky after netting in yesterday's victory.
After the game, Mata said, "I have had the most difficult season in my life, for sure. I wanted to score for my mother and, thankfully, I did it. So this goal, and every goal that I score from now on, is going to be for her."
They were notably emotional words from a man that is loved by everyone in football, and many United fans will be carrying that emotion with them as they prepare to potentially bid farewell to a United legend.