Back in the days of Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson, the battle between Manchester United and Tottenham was very one-sided.
Spurs won just one of the first 10 Premier League meetings between the clubs, and had to wait until 2012 for their first victory at Old Trafford in the competition.
That explains why, as Keane recalled in his autobiography, Ferguson famously gave his players a simple pre-match team-talk consisting of three words: “Lads, it’s Tottenham.”
However, the tables have turned, and Spurs will go into this weekend’s meeting aiming to make it five wins from seven against the Manchester club.
They’re 10 points ahead of their rivals, having beaten them 3-0 at Old Trafford back in August, and are even shorter odds to win the Champions League.
And that’s not the only way in which the tables have turned over the last 20 or so years. Give it another couple of seasons along this path and the hatred/pity balance might wind up shifting all the way.
The ol’ switcheroo began in the summer of 2013. No, not with Ferguson’s retirement – though his departure and selection of David Moyes undoubtedly helped to some degree – but with Tottenham’s sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
They had taken United’s crown as the big dogs of losing their best players; the champions of being not-quite-there; the kings of disappointment.
The wheels were clearly in motion when the London side took four points from the Red Devils that season, following up a December draw at White Hart Lane with an away victory on New Year’s Day.
Spurs were the ones buoyed by young Scandinavian stars, while United had to make to with Chelsea’s unwanted assets and multiple signings from Southampton.
Now, though, it’s the Lilywhites’ fans who have the task of overvaluing a group of English talents and waiting as little time as possible for their team to have their FA Cup games televised. They might not be the bullies just yet, but they’re at least approaching the monopoly on young and successful English players who fans of other clubs strain every sinew to hate.
They’ve even let United take the mantle of making bizarre and ill-thought-out signings – after all, if you don’t sign anyone then it’s literally impossible to make a bad purchase.
Even on the managerial side, there has been a reverse.
It used to be Spurs who had to make do with those cast off by bigger clubs, or those who had recently suffered relegation from the Premier League.
George Graham briefly took the reins a few years after his Arsenal dismissal, while Harry Redknapp had taken Southampton down just four years before arriving at White Hart Lane ready to set about building on that infamous two points from eight games.
Now it’s United’s turn, though: previous boss José Mourinho was dismissed by former club Chelsea while sitting 16th in the table, while his replacement, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, took Cardiff City down with a flourish in 2014.
Are Manchester United – dare we say it – Spursy?
Finally, and most importantly, Tottenham have been making progress in that crucial area of brand partnerships.
They have an official tyre partner, an official timing partner, an official car partner and a great deal more, though they’ve still god a little bit of work to do on the nutritional supplement and wine front.
Another couple of wins in this fixture, though, and they might have the firepower to tempt the likes of Casillero Del Diablo or Manda Fermentation away from Old Trafford.
All we know now is when Mauricio Pochettino walks into the home dressing room on Sunday, he’ll know just three words will be enough to encourage his team: “Lads, it’s United.”