Are Manchester United a team of mercenaries? At this rate next summer we could find out...
It's been legends season around Manchester United at late. Not only has Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography hogged headlines and his subsequent spat with Roy Keane, but the Class of '92 film has attracted many a plaudit.
The United team of the mid-90s was built on the foundation from the youngsters who came through their academy, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, while Ryan Giggs had broken into the team before any of them.
All stuck with the club until either Sir Alex Ferguson decided he wanted them no more, or they retired - amazingly in Giggs's case he is still playing.
It's a much-trodden cliche, but that sort of commitment and loyalty barely exists in football nowadays.
The United team over the past decade has been one ruthless built, mainly through big money or bargain signings, rather than those who have come through the academy.
With the club sitting in ninth in the Premier League, a title challenge for once looks a long shot, as supporters would surely just settle for a top four place at this stage.
But if they miss out on the top four, the loyalty of players in the current team will be put to the test. Will they resemble rats leaving a sinking ship?
Wayne Rooney's case is easy to read. He wanted out in the summer, and is already reported to be stalling over a new contract, which expires in 18 months. As a scouser he has no affinity to the Red Devils, and will simply be looking to move onto a club where he feels he has a better chance of trophies.
That is exactly what £24 million man Robin van Persie did with Arsenal. If United no longer meet his ambition, what's to say he won't want to leave too?
Rio Ferdinand, a big money signing once himself is likely to be let go, but what of his defensive colleagues? Will Patrice Evra take an easier route back one of the French giants? The left-back is a committed defender but one who has been ill-treated by Moyes and his pursuit of Baines.
Just one season out of the Champions League could see others stay, but should United make it two in a row then big name stars like David de Gea could even consider their own future too.
The point is this: United are no longer built on the solid foundations of a productive youth system like they were in the mid-90s. Over the past five years only Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley have risen to the first team.
Adnan Januzaj has just made it, but he is no Manchester lad like Welbeck, with no loyalty to the club he spurned Anderlecht for.
The United of today are a mutant of modern football, a team built on their previous success and able to attract the world's best.
But the problem is these players don't care about the club, they care about their own personal ambition. Does Rooney really care about becoming a record goalscorer at United beyond his own ego?
They have been here for the success. To savour it and add medals to their own personal collection. But do they really care about the club to stick around through potential lean times?
For United to truly return to past glory, what may be needed is a further emphasis on bringing through further young players, local lads, who care about the club and it's philosophy.
We may never see a 'Class of '92' again, but just half of that would be huge. Strangely, missing out on Champions League football, and seeing 'stars' depart, wouldn't be a good thing, but it may just allow the youth system to start blossoming again.
image: © nasmac