Jose Mourinho talks of a Portuguese saying "dying on the beach".. the story of the swimmer who puts everything into reaching safety only to perish from the effort.
Manchester United got to the beach intact in May 2013, but they are seizing up now. Change cannot come quickly enough. David Moyes must eliminate the comfort zone. He has to harry, bully and cajole the club forward as a young Alex Ferguson once did.
Ferguson walked into a club of underachievers in 1986. Moyes has far too many overachievers. Even the mediocre players at Old Trafford have medals on the shelf at home. Ferguson, facing the 1980s and early 1990s establishment clubs, chiefly Liverpool, and then Arsenal, sought players who wanted to change the status quo. Now, United are the great establishment club and too comfortable with it.
United have always spent money in the modern era, even in the erratic 1980s, when they were often profligate. But it goes without saying that the competition is much more intense these days in that regard. Spending big is an option, but in the modern era there are too few truly great players for every rich club which wants one.
All the things that United once did better than anyone else – high-end, big-money signings; astute scouting and development of young players – others have now poured resources into.
Moyes' job is not to rebuild United as Ferguson once did. United is built. What Moyes faces is the task of reinvigorating the club with the old ruthlessness and dominance it once trademarked.
A characteristic which has been talked about rather too much of late as a feature of history at Old Trafford rather than as part of an ongoing tradition.