The Barclays Premier League comes of age as Season 21 kicks off.
And over these two-plus decades, one constant remains - Sir Alex Ferguson's annual summer jolly as he plots the downfall of his rivals.
The protagonist in this year's plot emerged mid-afternoon on Wednesday. Robin van Persie - last year's Player of the Year and Golden Boot recipient. Such were the after shocks of the news even Wall Street was awoken as maligned ticker symbol MUFC briefly ticked up.
The Canadian social media landscape took notice as well. Within minutes, #RVP, Manchester United and #AFC entered the Top 10 of trending subjects in Canada. This on a day CBA talks for a pending NHL season were at a very critical stage.
Let there be no illusions, the Barclays Premier League gathers the country round the armchair like nothing else. Well, Canadian Women's National Team aside that is.
Ferguson's original English football coup d'état was to knock Liverpool off its perch. Such has been the Anfield fall from grace in recent seasons a vulture like Newcastle even fed of its rotting league carcass in 2011.
It's altogether unimaginable to think the club shaped by Shankly and one that simply purred under Paisley has never finished better than second during the Premier League era.
To define Liverpool at this time, one just has to think of Kenny Dalglish - Liverpool manager. Bringing them their last league title all the way back in 1989-1990, he was unceremoniously fired shortly after finishing eighth last term.
Today, a Manchester United-Liverpool league encounter registers apathy on the Fergie radar.
He's moved on, but not as dramatically as the blue half of Manchester has come on.
Money may not be able to buy you love, but how about that sheer joy on the faces of 50,000-plus Etihad devotees as Diego Armando's son-in-law responded to Joey Barton's crude kick where the sun don't shine by banging in that winner on that sun-drenched Madchester Sunday afternoon back on May 13.
Not only did it bring a first English championship to the so termed football-poor half of Manchester when factoring in last year's runners up only get their campaign going Monday it will mean exactly 100 sleepless nights for Ferguson since trudging off the Stadium of Light pitch knowing Manchester would be organizing a parade.
And the Lord of the Manchester Football Manor wouldn't be getting an invite.
Outside of the 2011 January transfer window (when Abramovich bankrolled New England Sport Ventures' irrational Andy Carroll) exuberance that 18 months later has turned to hubris Manchester City have monopolized the world transfer market since 2008.
When just for a loads-a-money laugh they outbid the aforementioned Abramovich for the signature of Robinho for £32.5m ($50m) back on deadline day in the summer of 2008.
This summer (and not because the Etihad bank vault has pulled a Lehman Brothers), to this point a $25m Jack Rodwell aside, their investment portfolio of top notch football talent remains as it were.
The biggest noise the English Champions have made this summer is on the website side of things. Where earlier Friday they launched the most comprehensive performance analysis of any club or franchise in world sport.
Even the nine-year-olds that now form part of the Etihad Campus have been included. All stemming from club captain Vincent Kompany's novel idea from two years ago where alongside all his fellow defenders, they met on a weekly basis to pour over defensive statistics.
A performance enhancer without the drugs.
Making the data available in such a public manner will not in any way compromise Manchester City or any of its players in any way, shape or statistical form. It is after all lagging indicators, not leading indicators.
Old news not to be used to gain an advantage for Fergie or Roman's brain trust - instead more valuable to wrap up the fish and chips that are sold outside Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge
Fresh from securing London's very first European Cup, Chelsea - even with the $100 million lavished so far to turn an aging, physical team into an exciting zestful crop of young entertainers - cannot truly expect an immediate return on investment.
Then factor in the opportunity costs of European glory. It may bring with it a jaunt to Monaco where Roman will certainly park the yacht, but Chelsea will have a three-week break from Barclay's Premier League action as they contest the UEFA Super Cup in Monte Carlo later this month.
If they're not playing catch up upon their return to the league pitch come September 15, then just ahead of the annual jamboree that is the festive fixture list where clubs play four matches in a little over 10 days Chelsea will just have returned from Blatter's annual World Club Cup pilgrimage.
Contested over 10 December days this season it has moved from Abu Dhabi to Tokyo. An inconvenience too far for Chelsea as they aspire to add to the three domestic crowns secured so far under the House of Abramovich.
That itself reaches a milestone next May and will signify a decade of Roman rule for a club that resides in the most expensive neighbourhood in the world. Not even Trump could fire Roman from his royal enclave.
Chelsea doesn't though rule the London football 'hood. Their extremely poor form throughout the course of the 2011-12 season in matches against fellow London clubs saw the European Champions where they take just eight points of the 24 on offer. The London factor has been made even more difficult by the promotion of West Ham which means close to 30 percent of Chelsea's matches this season will be against fellow Londoners.
Lord Coe - the architect of London 2012 - is an obsessive Chelsea fan but even he realizes London's loss is Manchester's gain.
Even Arsenal has to agree. For a club that puts much stock in its olde English stiff upper lip traditions with Van Persie's departure - the club that has the longest continual spell of any other club in the top tier of English football - has now jettisoned for significant filthy lucre every proper club captain since throwing Vieira overboard as reward for helping Wenger secure his last piece of silverware - the 2005 FA Cup.
Depending on who you believe, the sales of Vierira, Henry, Fabregas and van Persie have netted the club $125 million. They may have helped keep the Emirates mortgage payments down to an affordable level, but have come at too high a cost trophy wise.
Wenger likes to project himself as a modern day football philosopher, but he keeps selling his football equivalents of Socrates. He may have a dab hand at developing and raw talent but the 60,000-plus who show up week in week out at the Emirates are sold a fool's gold. Meanwhile, 'The Arsenal' bankers are enriched. A crying football sham and shame if ever there was one.
England's so termed Big Four is whittled down to a Top Two. Manchester will rejoice once more come May. The question that will draw us in week in week out over the nine-month term is will it be City or United's?
It's a toss up, a coin flip. Newly minted and perhaps Arsene can oblige and flip it for all of us.
LIVERPOOL TO BE RELEGATED
Seems owner John Henry is getting his excuses in early by stating Liverpool are not able to compete financially due to problems inherited from the previous regime. Going all James Bond-like, Henry talked yesterday about an inability to turn an ocean liner round like you can a speedboat. He must have been referring to Andy Carroll. With latest reports suggesting the England striker could return to his native north east for $25 million - which is less than half what Liverpool paid for him 18 months ago – it's egg on the chin to Mr. Henry. Carroll was one of the first purchases Henry sanctioned after taking ownership in October 2010. Now more trouble for Liverpool, this time in the form of research from SportingIntelligence.com. Having analyzed last year's fixture list the research returned empirical evidence Bolton had the hardest start of any club in the Barclays Premier League. Their reward was relegation. No prizes for guessing which club SportingIntelligence.com has identified with the hardest start for this campaign. Now about restoring them red nets, Mr. Rodgers.
Rio Ferdinand may take comfort in the 10,000-plus retweets for his self-invented hash tag directed at well known Arsenal fan Piers Morgan that emerged in the immediate aftermath of van Persie swapping North London for the north of England, but it's also the latest example of the mentality and attitude of the Alpha male English footballer. One, that's in complete and stark contrast to members of Team GB. Not sure Ferdinand's poetic way is what Dave Berisford the Performance Director of the GB Cycling team means with his "accumulation of marginal gains," philosophy and mentality. Ahead of the Olympics, Berisford's team of support staff and coaches analyzed even the way his cyclists shook hands in between helping chose the pillows team members lay their heads on. The result? An incredible percent of gold medals offered in the Velodrome and cycling streets of London ended up round the neck of a GB cyclist. And no, I didn't see Roy Hodgson shopping for pillows in the recent fortnight I was back in London.
Earlier this week Bristol University made public results of recent research into the minds of certain English club supporters. The research called for married supporters of Newcastle, maybe not the fittest looking bunch they are certainly England's most fervent fans, to be presented with images of players alongside those of their wife. The supporters were wired up to detect brain impulses as in front of their very eyes the pictures of their favourite players and poses of the wife were systematically cut up. Although not recorded were their verbal Geordie responses but what was recorded and registered on the laboratory monitors was the increases in stress levels inflicted on the long suffering St. James' Park brethren. Surprisingly or not the cut up photos of the wife displayed the greater stress levels. Eloquently captured by the representative of PUMA who commissioned the study who claimed the evidence was a perfect illustration that football is indeed a game of two halves. Where in this case the 'other half' clearly wins.
Listen to Live Play by Play Coverage of the Barclays Premier League on TSN1050 Toronto, TSN990 Montreal, TSN1290 Winnipeg, TEAM Radio Vancouver and TEAM1200 Ottawa.
Liverpool v West Brom Saturday: Pre-Game Show at 9:30am et / 6:30am pt
Manchester City v Southampton Sunday: Pre-Game Show at 10:30am et / 7:30am pt