As Chelsea turn the title race around, United succumb to German efficiency in Europe. Are United prone to mistakes in their haste to win matches? Is Fergie reaching for the pipe and slippers under the weight of the Glazer's debt bubble? Jonny's view:
It was all set fair: Rome, May 2009. A second consecutive Champions League Final. Victory over Barcelona would've confirmed Manchester United as the undisputed greatest on the planet. Well, they'd already mopped up a hattrick of Premier League crowns and claimed the first-ever meaningful World Club Cup.
A third European title beckoned for Sir Alex Ferguson and having drawn level on eighteen with Liverpool as Champions of England, Fergie had fulfilled his promise of "knocking the Reds off their perch".
But Barca outplayed United. With 150 goals and six titles to their name, Messrs. Messi, Henry and Eto'o flicked mud at United's glister.
Then with Cristiano Ronaldo's defection to Madrid confirming Spain's economic and footballing superiority over England, Fergie might've wished for one more heroic 90 minute push from his never-say-die troops against Barca.
That way he could've left: unbowed, undefeated, the Greatest Of All Time.
But his boys lost badly - and like Muhammad Ali, the street fighter doesn't know when to stop.
Eleven months on, Bayern Munich have put paid to United's European bid at quarter-final stage and Chelsea have turned the title race upside down just as United were closing in. They look beatable by a dozen teams in the Premier League: emerging Villa emphatically planted their victory flag in Old Trafford soil, followed up by the ignominy of losing at home to Leeds United, two divisions below them.
Far from being the man in control, the hairdryer has a lower voltage. Sentiment's playing a role in some of his selections.
That the much-decorated Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are still figuring isn't the Fergie of five years ago. No, back then they would've been on the Slow Boats to Everton, Newcastle and alike.
As much as Giggs still plays well, realistically he's not even a player that Spurs, Villa or Man City would race to sign. Scholes? wonderful servant but nowhere near the level required.
At the back, their squad's threadbare. Were Carrick and Fletcher really used as makeshift defenders? suddenly United's squad seemed no deeper than Stoke or Bolton's.
So the Govanator's missed his chance to quit at the very, very pinnacle of the game - or has he?
There's one way he can bow out with head held high. To go hell for leather for the Premier League title. A fourth consecutive trophy in the Old Trafford cabinet and a nineteenth in all to surpass Liverpool, would mark Fergie as the King of Kings in management. But after Chelsea, it's a Big If.