Everyone kept waiting for the inevitable fightback. The late, dramatic winner stamped in the DNA.
But it never came.
Instead, Muhammad Ali continued to lose, first to Leon Spinks and then to Larry Holmes.
Conventional wisdom dictated that Ali's best days were behind him, but few questioned his judgment. No one was qualified. No one had the resume.
So Ali faced Holmes and suffered what ringside spectator Sylvester Stallone called a brutal autopsy on a living man.
Louis van Gaal endured his Holmes moment yesterday (Singapore time).
Time caught up with him and exposed his shortcomings.
There was to be no comeback from Manchester United against Arsenal. There was nothing left in the locker, on the bench or in the Dutchman's dossier.
Van Gaal, like the hallowed club, are hollow shells living off past glories.
The ignominious FA Cup defeat confirmed the suspicions of sceptical United fans. This might be as good as it's ever going to get.
The Gunners made a mockery of the Dutchman's masterplan because there isn't one. Van Gaal's men are suffocating behind his smoke and mirrors.
What lies beneath the revered resumes and daft dossiers is nothing, nothing at all; just a man out of touch with his environment.
Despite being 63 years old, the flesh is willing, but the mind is weak.
He speaks of his fruitless search for a 20-goal-a-season striker despite inheriting one, possibly two, in the much-maligned squad left behind by David Moyes.
They both scored in the FA Cup quarter-final.
As Angel di Maria discovered, whip a cross anywhere in the vicinity of Wayne Rooney's forehead and the United striker usually does the rest.
He's been rather good at it for the last decade.
Danny Welbeck, hand-reared from boy to England man at the United academy, was dismissed by the Dutchman as too unreliable in the penalty box.
Welbeck has struggled for goals in an Arsenal jersey, but United ended the game by lumping long, aerial balls towards Chris Smalling and Marouane Fellaini.
Had he still been at United, Welbeck's pace surely offered a more subtle alternative against a tiring Per Mertesacker.
Instead, United launched balls with the kind of flair and accuracy associated with a cannon from the Crimean War. Van Gaal speaks of intelligent football, but this was retrograde football.
United just don't play this way.
The Dutchman is dangerously associating United's global appeal only with Sir Alex Ferguson's Premier League success, but the club's popularity was built on that traditional Old Trafford swagger.
Ron Atkinson and Tommy Docherty's sides didn't overburden the trophy cabinet, but they always knocked the ball about.
Van Gaal's Route One stuff sends United back to Square One.
His talk of transition is a tired argument. Just consider his signings.
He's assembled the most expensive squad in United's history, but his revolutionaries are hardly storming the gates of nirvana.