It is not an easy thing to keep count of Sir Alex Ferguson's trophies over the last quarter of a century at Manchester United but once they have all been carefully added up – 37, if we are going to include the Community Shield – it is difficult to think there have been many more gratifying than the one we can say, with gathering certainty, looks like coming his way at some point over the next month or so.
Not the most dramatic, perhaps, and not the most glorious. His team have won more devastatingly in the past, with a faster tempo and a more obvious sprinkling of stardust. There have been times when they have provided up to half a dozen contenders for the Footballer-of-the-Year awards and made the art of winning football matches look considerably easier, whereas this season they have frequently left the sense of a team playing with something to spare.
It has felt like a churn at times, though maybe only because a club that has made such a rare form of excellence their norm is always surrounded by the greatest expectations. The fact is Ferguson's team are on course to set one of their highest points totals, as well as establishing a club record for the number they have accrued away from Old Trafford. They are 18 points clear of an old enemy, Arsenal, and 23 from another, Chelsea. Liverpool have all but disappeared in their wing-mirrors, 34 behind with fewer than half the goals scored. Manchester City, more relevantly, have been on the wrong end of a 10-point swing in the space of a month. Through the fog of despair, the most financially endowed club on the planet can have only grudging respect for what United are threatening to show them about the powers of endurance and strength of mind that come a lot more naturally for serial champions.