With great teams you can reel off most of the starting XI without thinking.
With Manchester City, nine of the Premier League winning players roll off the tongue. But I wonder if the English champions are also now rolling towards the edge of decline as they try to capture the Champions League.
Tomorrow's clash between City and Chelsea in Manchester is fascinating and could tell us which of the two teams is developing in the best direction.
Chelsea's average age is 26.9. Man City's squad is 28.9 - the highest in the Premier League. In modern terms, that's old.
I think Jose Mourinho has adapted his squad cleverly in the last 12 months, selling Juan Mata and David Luiz for big money and then using the proceeds wisely. His team will have two years' more longevity than City.
Make no mistake, City have been a great Premier League side. The 'constants', as I call them, are easy to pick out: Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero.
Two titles in three years marks them out as a great English side who sit alongside the title winning teams of Arsene Wenger, Mourinho and Alex Ferguson. But just looking at them now, and where they are in their development, I feel this team is in a dangerous position.
Before Wednesday's defeat at Bayern Munich I said: "For this team, the time is now."
I looked at the line-up and felt they were growing old together. Football allows that less and less. The fruit is ripe - but you had better eat it quickly, because it's going to go off.
The value of those players will drop quite sharply in the next 18 months because everyone will know they are going over the edge.
People used to ask of Alex Ferguson: "Why has he sold this or that player when he's still performing really well?" Answer: because he knew what was coming.
There is a trace of that now with City. Their problem, though, is that Financial Fair Play is chasing them down the road. So their option is to sell big now and buy young replacements in the next 12 months. If they wait any longer they will be in trouble on the saleable value of the current players.
Another route would be to bring through academy graduates. I believe FFP treats them unfairly. I notice that their £50m fine is going to be redistributed to other big clubs in the Champions League. Ridiculous.
Why would you distribute one club's fine to the others, to help them?
Watching the Bayern Munich game, live, it struck me that City are not progressing in Europe. Six years ago, English teams would always talk about reaching the "technical level" of the German, Spanish and Italian teams.
In these last three seasons, German and Spanish teams have displayed a higher physical intensity in their work than the English contenders.
The pace of the big Premier League is superb. We see a very fast, aggressive contest. But when you take it to Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Dortmund, our clubs are falling short. City's problem in that respect relates to three pairings: Aguero and Dzeko, Silva and Nasri, and Toure and his partner in midfield.
Here's why. If you play Toure with a partner in central midfield, I don't think you can play Silva and Nasri. If you play Dzeko and Aguero, I don't think you can play Toure and a partner in midfield. If you play Nasri and Silva, I don't think you can play the other two pairings, which is why, I believe, Pellegrini left Aguero out in Munich. I think he recognises that the physical capacity and/or age of the team is a looming problem for him, and that he can no longer play all of them in the same side.
City are the only team I have seen so far that can take on Chelsea in the league, but unless they sacrifice the domestic title in favour of Europe and summon the kind of high-intensity performances abroad they lack just now, I don't think they will win the Champions League. As a red in Munich on Wednesday night, I shed no tears, but professionally I was disappointed in City.
Their time is now or never. With an average of 29 the room for improvement next season is limited. The wonderful academy they are building in Manchester has to bear fruit. City had one English player in the starting XI against Bayern. That has to be painful. But I have no doubt their academy will bring players through because the standards there are so high.
At United, we used to look at Chelsea and City a little arrogantly and say "we would never do it like that". But the Premier League however would be a lot less interesting without a competitive City and Chelsea. Whether you like capitalism or not, FFP is, to me, a restraint of trade. It was brought in to stop clubs being ruined by spending beyond their means. I find that moral principle hard to argue with. Driving clubs to bankruptcy is despicable. However, there is another way.
When Sheikh Mansour arrived I wondered how he would be seen. The massive investment not only in the club but the community and economy of east Manchester has improved the life of the city. When I drive through there the area is unrecognisable from 10 years ago.
As a Man United man I may not always want them to win a football match but Manchester has benefited hugely from City's renaissance.
I prefer the idea of a bond to FFP. Sheikh Mansour, for example, could lodge a bond to guarantee the club's future, should he ever decide to pull out. There are other ways than FFP to protect clubs without punishing wealthy clubs who want to spend their way into the elite. Football has become elitist in the last 10 years - and we're in danger of making it even more so. Sheikh Mansour might just be the one to bring FFP down.
One great overseas signing is Toure, whose performance in Munich intrigued me. He is a championship-winning player who has had a huge influence on City. Looking at him defensively, though, in a midfield pair - it doesn't work.
His background fitness stats will always show a big distance covered. On the other hand his high-intensity ratings may be on the slide. He has always been someone who makes runs selectively, with maximum effect. In the top games, against elite opponents, who find ways to combat him, his impact is diminishing, especially in Europe.
In the Chelsea game this weekend there will be echoes of last year, when Mourinho used Nemanja Matic and Luiz in front of the back-four to stop Toure. This is Chelsea: the very highest level of management and tactics, with the best team of the early part of the season. The best equipped side.
For that reason I want to see how Toure plans for tomorrow's game, given that he knows Chelsea will have a plan for him. Can he have an impact on this huge fixture? I believe he can, but he will have to find a higher level of intensity than he displayed in Munich. 'Intensity' is no buzz word.
Since 2002 there has been an explosion in physical stats. Over the summer I watched young England players who are not particularly physical lift 35kg dumb-bells. In my career I lifted 16s and 18s and 20s.
Football is getting quicker and quicker. Players are getting fitter and fitter. And I looked at the City team on Wednesday and thought: unless four of the six who started in Bavaria raise the intensity of their defensive work I don't believe they can win the Champions League.
City are one of two teams who can take the Premier League title this year but Pellegrini and the board have some big decisions to make in the next 12 months if they want Europe's biggest prize. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Man City v Chelsea, Live, Sky Sports 1, tomorrow, 4.0
Watching Manchester City against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, I felt that it was the same old story in the Champions League for Manuel Pellegrini’s team. Yaya Touré’s lack of defensive work in midfield has become a major problem for them.