As Manchester United reflect on a trophyless season, TEAMtalk considers what the club needs to do to reclaim the Premier League crown.
Of the 14 seasons Sir Alex Ferguson has ended as manager of Manchester United without winning the league championship, some stand out more than others.
To Ferguson, 1995 is the one that sticks in the memory, battering away at the West Ham goal in those frantic final stages when it became obvious a win would secure glory at Blackburn's expense.
For the supporters old enough to remember it, 1992 was the low point. Twenty-five years after the last title, a point behind with two games in hand on a Leeds side with only four to play.
In 1998, United had an 11-point lead over Arsenal, in 2010 they led Chelsea heading into April.
All four championships were lost, all four the subject of recrimination and anger. And crucially, all four were followed by the title being successfully collected 12 months later.
If anything, the angst this summer will be even worse.
This season was a combination of 92 and 98, the big lead and the lateness of the stumble. And to compound that, the team to profit are those noisy neighbours from across the city, the club that most reds younger than 40 have spent their entire football-supporting lives laughing at.
But Manchester City are a joke no more.
Now United will never feel entirely safe, not even with an eight-point lead and six games to go.
When the shock of their calamity settles, most Red Devils' supporters will accept that what happened from the turn of the year, following the return of Paul Scholes, came about through Ferguson's sheer force of will.
It is hard to imagine any other manager driving their team through so many significant challenges and emerging in such a healthy state.
Those who rail against Ferguson's confrontational nature and decry his achievements should take a close look at the respective squads of Manchester United and City and ask themselves how it ended up being so close.
The answer is Ferguson.
Yet even he can only defy such unforgiving odds so long.
United have fallen back alarmingly since Cristiano Ronaldo left in 2009.
They may have begun an upward curve this term but the movement is marginal and it is done next to a team built on around £400million-worth of top-class stars.
At United, Tom Cleverley started the season superbly. But injuries ruled him out for long periods, during which time his reputation grew out of all proportion to his 15 appearances.
The form of Patrice Evra was patchy. On the other flank, Rafael's defending continued to cause concern and whilst Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, like Cleverley, did well initially, a succession of injuries caused a dip in form and both ended the campaign with a whimper rather than a bang.
The loss of skipper Nemanja Vidic was a major blow and cost United both defensive ability and organisational skill.
Further forward, it seemed one of Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia were always in form, but never two.
And for all the excellent improvement of Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez failed to match his first season, Dimitar Berbatov was used fleetingly and Michael Owen was rarely fit.
It contributed to a fractured season, scarred by a Champions League exit to Basle and that 6-1 Old Trafford annihilation by City from which accurate assessment is impossible.
For instance, during that amazing period from late January to early March, when United came through so many tough tests, they were still comprehensively outplayed by an Athletic Bilbao outfit that ended their domestic campaign in mid-table.
Demands from supporters for the Glazer family to loosen the financial shackles many feel they have imposed, even if Ferguson repeatedly denies it, have already been made.
Undoubtedly, the £500million that has gone out of Old Trafford in various fees and interest payments associated with the Americans' ownership of United could have made a vast difference.
It rather escapes the point that someone has to own the club.
And whoever it is, in the form of share dividends for the old PLC or wage from a profitable company, not all the profit gets ploughed back into the business.
And this summer funds will be hit through that early Champions League exit that could cost around £15million.
What it would be nice to see, is United competing for the best in addition to having an eye on the future.
Every successful side Ferguson has created contained players bought from the very top of the transfer tree.
Without being willing to splash out on a Roy Keane or a Rio Ferdinand, or a Ruud van Nistelrooy, it is hard to see how United can possibly keep pace with those who are.
Simon Stone, Press Association Sport Chief Football Writer