In a month he will be 71, gnarled, but as scrappy as ever. It is not a bad age at which to look down on all your rivals. However, the prize is not for stamina as Alex Ferguson heads for still another milestone while occupying the leadership of a league so often described as the most compellingly competitive in all of football.
Two Champions League titles and 12 Premier League wins is certainly a testament to an astonishing willingness to fight the years. But most remarkable, surely, is Ferguson's determination not to luxuriate in the past, but to read the future.
It was the latest evidence that he retains a unique capacity for picking out the players most capable of giving the club new strengths when they are needed most.
Strapped for cash by his old standards, Ferguson was frustrated in his efforts to bring a new dynamism to a stagnating, ageing midfield, but when his hopes of signing Internazionale's Wesley Sneijder faded, his focus shifted to the man who had all but carried Arsenal through a season of survival as a member of English football's elite.
On the 20th anniversary of the French idol's signing, Van Persie is the new face of a winning United.
Ferguson this week sighed that the battle has rarely been so draining and no doubt he had the recent defeat at Norwich City in mind when he added that it was shaping up to be an extremely long season. But how much more distant must the end of the road seem to rivals like Rafa Benitez at Chelsea and Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.
Benitez's ordeal at Stamford Bridge is being endured with the dubious help of just one front-rank striker, unfortunately one who seems to have lost the last of his aura. At £50m, Fernando Torres has looked for some time the last word in football inflation. At Anfield Luis Suarez is a specialist of the highest quality enjoying some of the best form of his life. But he is utterly isolated. If he doesn't score, Liverpool scarcely have a prayer.
These are extreme comparisons, but they do emphasise Ferguson's ability to recognise a need where so many others – including the bean counters of a club who can no longer compete at the highest levels of the financial league table – might see a danger of being spoilt for choice.
When Van Persie made it clear that he wanted a new deal away from Arsenal, Manchester City were the immediate favourites. Barcelona were also put in the frame. But it was Ferguson who moved with maximum conviction.
"Van Persie," said Ferguson, "can make all the difference for us. We have some great forwards, but he will bring an extra dimension. He will bring the certainty of goals." Nothing could be more important to a team who lost last year's title on goal difference – and only after City had made a remarkable comeback in their last game.
Van Persie has duly delivered the goals – and created new levels of competition between United's striking corps. Wayne Rooney has a new withdrawn role. Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck have to fight over the scraps. It is a situation which brings that old steely gleam to the eye of British football's ultimate competitor and provokes once again a question that is beginning to seem eternal.
When will he put down the burden of office after revoking a rash impulse to do so four years after his treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in 1999?
Charlton, a newly elected member of the United board, pushed for Ferguson's appointment in 1985 and was his steadfast defender when some other directors grew impatient after fallow early years. Now he says: "It would have been madness to part with him when he didn't immediately win the title, so much was being put in place and it would also have been crazy not to try to talk him out of his decision to quit."
Charlton recalls the moment when Ferguson revealed that he had seen the folly of walking away. "I had been plucking up the nerve to attempt to talk him out of it, so I was very relieved one morning when we met at the foot of the lift in Old Trafford and he told me 'Oh, by the way, I've had a talk at home and I'm staying on.'
Now, four Premier League titles and a Champions League later, Charlton says: "No one has done more to earn the right to walk away exactly when he chooses, but, if he does, I think I would find myself saying, 'Why? Why go when you are still so clearly on top of the job'."
Last season the title slipped away from United in the last minutes of the season.
In the previous season some rated United's championship win as Ferguson's supreme achievement, a remarkable effort of will with a squad that was generally considered to be one of the weakest in all his years at Old Trafford.
Now he is operating once more from a position of more familiar strength. Van Persie has given the team a new, sharp edge in the most vital area of the field. Some old certainty has returned. It is one that, as ever, is underpinned by the recurring strength of the manager's ambition.
There is so much talk of natural-born successors, including such names as Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola and perhaps this is the year that the old warrior will finally step aside.
But then, where is the incentive when Van Persie keeps scoring the decisive goals ... and confirming the hardest instinct that English football will probably ever know.