The biggest positive United can take from this game is that the newly installed management pair have been given a vision of the limitations of the current Unted side when confronted with one in serious contention for the title.
The scoreline on the day, sadly for United, was a reasonably accurate reflection of the difference in level between the teams.
United looked the part to begin with when a smart move down the left featuring Lawson, MacPhee and Smith put the visiting defence under enough pressure for Burnett to head the ball straight to Smith not far in from the left corner.
The predatory wing back made himself just enough space from which to deliver a vicious drive that crashed off the far post before being hastily cleared by Milne.
This should have encouraged United but the effect was more visible in the Cove ranks as they settled back into shape and began bit by bit to push their back line up the park and, ever so sightly squeeze Formartine.
United for their part were at this stage looking resonably secure at the back where McKeown had made his first start in a competitive game in more than a year.
The tenth minute – a hint of things to come - saw Cove pushforward enough for centre half Watson to try his luck from 30 yards out with a a big goalward dunt that wasn’t too far over the top.
A minute later there was a degree of disarray in the United goalmouth that took MacDonald snatching the ball from the toes of Masson to restore order.
Pressure was mounting. United relied on longer balls from the back up to Barbour and MacPhee.
But the former got no cuttance whatever from Ross and the latter, while doing well in holding up the ball, too often found suppport late to arrive.
Cove opened their account in the 28th minute: a simple enough move but well executed.
Megginson had made himself a wee bit of space near the right corner of the box and clipped over a cunningly flighted dipping cross just behind McKeown.
Burnett seemed to know what was coming and nipped in behind McKeown and catching the ball on the volley, simply side-footed it past the line of the advancing keeper and into the net from no more than three or four yards out.
Formartine tried manfully to get back on terms but found for all that they tried to maintain a high tempo. Cove were able to exert more influence over it than they could.
Cove had the capacity to determine that the game would be played at their pace and to their pattern.
The pressure was on and it took the visitors only ten more minutes to establish a two-goal advantage.
A period of sustained pressure around the home penalty area increased to one within it and during an intense phase of backs to the wall defending in the home goal mouth, Dan Park, a former Formartine favourite in Paterson days, managed to squeeze the ball home from close range in the midst of the melee.
After the interval, United set themselves up with three at the back and Michie replacing McKeown who after three abortive come back attempts in two years, has again succumbed to injury.
Cove still maintained some territorial advantage but United looked comfortable enough at this stage.
However, Cove again showed the ability to slowly tighten their grip.
United attacks were infrequent and the game looked beyond them even before the league leaders got their third, utterly decisive goal.
This came in the 65th minute and again was the outcome of sustained goal mouth pressure.
From the inside right channel and around 25 yards out, Masson leathered one off the cross bar.
The ball rebounded downwards and beyond the reach of the keeper and in the ensuing mayhem around the back stick, S.Anderson managed somehow to hit the ball to rebound again from the cross bar.
Megginson, making a late but spectacular arrival to the party, buzzed in from the left and launched himself at the ball to deliver a perfect diving header at the back post to bullet the ball into the net for number three.
Number four simply rubbed salt into Formartine wounds.
They were a spent force when Harry Milne topped a superb defensive performance with the luxury of a goal five minutes from the end.
Like its predecessors, it was the result of a period of sustained pressure – nothing pretty about it – just what you get from hammering away.
A Burnett drive from the edge of the box rebounded off one of a ruck of home players – probably MacPhee- and fell well for Milne who following in on Burnett’s drive collected the rebound and thumped it left-footed into the net from about eight yards out.