The boot room: United epitomise consistent success
If Manchester United win their 20th English Premier League title, which they are now odds on to complete, with just four games left to play, a strange sort of justice would have been done. Justice which proves it takes time to put a successful process in place and justice that also condemns large hoards of cash being splashed in order to fast-track such glory.
United's League triumph, their 13th under Alex Ferguson — a stalwart at the club of 26 years — would underline the fact that success is consistency. It would herald strong foundations, long-term vision and accumulative experience over and above hurried spending and impatient demands.
It wouldn't laud stand-out individuals or media-hungry big names, but it would honour quiet, consistent performers who understood they were part of a much bigger picture, mere cogs of some much wider workings.
Frank Lampard at Chelsea who fell foul of Andreas Villas Boas and Carlos Tevez who did the same at City with Robert Mancini this season would both do well to take a single leaf out of the United compendium.
Of course, heroes in United colours have come and gone, but they haven't all come at once and they haven't all vied for attention and adulation at the same time. They haven't thrown a wobbly when the coach has sidelined them and they haven't taken matters beyond the dressing room door. They haven't abused fellow players a la John Terry and Luis Suarez and those who have, haven't stayed long at Old Trafford, and those who have, now live to regret such a lapse in discipline and judgment.
The badge will live on
Understanding that the badge is of greater honour and importance than the individual will have won United their 20th title, and understanding that whatever happens, the badge lives on and sustains itself, will give the red half of Manchester glory for a 20th time come April 30.
Arsenal's is another prime example. Even without their two best players Cesc Fabregas and Sami Nasri, they are still on course to finish third or more. Not without a bump in the road Arsene Wenger's path of self perpetuating success lives on.
If ever a case-study is needed on how to build a football club, United's is text book. It took Ferguson four years to win a trophy, but in that time, he built the foundations of a dynasty that will last 40 years or more. Written off at the start of the season for under spending or the mass retirements of the class of 1992, United have silently and effectively re-asserted themselves as the dominant force once again.
And it's not because of lone characters and it's not because of fast cash, but rather an organic process of development, discipline, belief and understanding that the badge must live on and the badge is what you're playing for. Form is temporary but class is permanent.
Once other clubs have sacked their coaches and swept their slates clean for a whole range of new big summer signings, the process of justice and football must start all over again. While in life justice can take time, in football it's delivered annually.