The title is so obviously bound for Old Trafford that yesterday's Manchester Evening News mocked up a photograph of Kenny Dalglish as a parrot, about to be knocked off his perch. When it arrives, the 19th championship, the one that takes them past Liverpool, will be a hard-won affair. Should there be a 20th or a 21st, Sir Alex Ferguson expects something similar. The days when Chelsea and Manchester United could amble to the summit of the Premier League with more than 90 points are over.
"It will be very difficult to get 90 points again because of the improvement of teams in the middle and towards the bottom of the league," said Ferguson as he prepared to lead Manchester United for what is expected to be a coronation at Blackburn this afternoon.
"What this season has proved is this is a tough league. We have dropped points against teams like Birmingham, West Brom, Aston Villa and Newcastle. We have lost to Wolves. Winning the League is always hard. I can think of only 2000 and 2001 when we have won it comfortably.
"The League has become tighter and tighter. We have spoken for years about 'The Big Four' but it is wider than that now. Teams like Tottenham have not got back into the Champions League and yet they have had a fantastic season.
"Liverpool will be galvanised next season. Kenny has just signed a three-year contract and that will settle the club. It just makes it more interesting."
But could he ever envisage Manchester United having a "fantastic season" without winning a trophy? "It depends on what angle you take on that," he said before a long pause. "No, I don't take that view. Winning trophies [is] the most important thing."
An incandescent Sir Alex Ferguson will contest his latest FA disciplinary charge that resulted from him describing Howard Webb as "the best referee" to officiate last Sunday's match with Chelsea.