It was a day the town and people of Northampton will never forget. And if die-hard fans of the Cobblers were ecstatic when they drew the champions of England in the FA Cup, then so was a town which suddenly became seized by cup fever.
No doubt, a very different place to that I have only visited on a handful of occasions on work conferences!
The relationship in football terms between Manchester United and Northampton may be limited - only 1970 and all that when George Best, famously, scored six goals in an 8-2 home defeat for Town. But the draw of the country's top club was always going to provide an added edge.
Even if Northampton controversially increased the ticket prices for this tie - so much so that United magnanimously reduced the price for their traveling supporters - such is the appeal of United, such is the beauty of the FA Cup, there were home fans outside the ground trying to see the action from various vantage points.
'Play with our heads and not our hearts,' was the pre-match assessment of Northampton Town's manager, Colin Calderwood. They had certainly done that against higher division sides in cup competitions earlier this season. Norwich were dispatched in the Carling Cup, with Plymouth and then, of course, Rotherham, seen off in the FA Cup.
And while scoring goals in the cups hadn't proved a problem, 24 goals in 25 league games suggested a lack of firepower. In truth, once the match began, the lack of firepower seemed to be a problem for the Premiership side early on.
Only two and a half minutes had passed when Quinton Fortune jinked down the left and crossed to the far post where home left-back Chris Carruthers nudged Cristiano Ronaldo in the back. Referee Steve Bennett made the correct decision in awarding a penalty but, so early on, it was hard not to feel a little sympathy for the underdogs and when Lee Harper dived to his right to save Diego Forlan's poor spot-kick, the neutral had witnessed a terrific start to the tie.
It could have been a real surprise start if Roy Carroll hadn't come out well to deny Derek Asamoah shortly afterwards but, as expected, the Premiership champions dictated the pace. But the lack of composure in front of goal was evident as Harper saved a Forlan header and efforts from Ronaldo and David Bellion.
The only surprise when the goal arrived was that it was so scrappy - Mikael Silvestre forcing the ball in at the second attempt after it had bobbled around in the penalty area once a Ronaldo shot was deflected to take it away from the keeper. Forlan went close on the stroke of half-time and less than a minute after the re-start, the unfortunate Chris Hargreaves put through his own net.
Hargreaves diverted the ball past Harper after John O'Shea flicked on a corner. The moment the home fans had waited for almost arrived just before the hour mark when Mark Richards hit the bar but any faint hope Northampton had of causing uncertainty in the minds of their opponents disappeared when a move of precision passing culminated in a pinpoint O'Shea delivery, an equally accomplished Ronaldo knock-back and a neat finish from Forlan.
Sir Alex Ferguson gave youngsters Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley an outing in the closing stages – United finished the match with an average age of 22 - and Richardson would have been on the scoresheet but for a terrific save from Harper, who tipped the young midfielder's drive onto the bar.
Harper denied Forlan again, although Northampton would have marked the occasion with a goal but for Carroll's top-notch save from a Martin Smith free-kick Asamoah, a livewire up front, then hit a post and the moment the home fans craved wasn't to be.
So, the end of a fruitful road for a side which has performed below expectation in Division Three this season, despite the ability to play some good stuff.
After the match, Calderwood said he hoped his team would now fade from the nation's view and gain a place in the play-offs. No doubt Manchester United wish him and his players well.
Quote of the match: Colin Calderwood: 'They (my players) have given it their all. For that I have to be proud. There is a huge difference between the two clubs. We learnt good lessons today.'
Man of the match: Cristiano Ronaldo - the 18 year-old was bewitching at times and involved in the majority of United's best attacking moves. Despite conceding three, Harper's performance was also worthy of the accolade.
Atmosphere: Sixfields is a compact all-seater ground, but relatively open, so sound does escape easily. However, this was a cup tie and the atmosphere was befitting of the occasion.