We like our football clubs neatly packaged.
We like them to have an identity, easily recognisable when they play on a Saturday or go about their transfer business. If nothing else, it makes them easier to talk about in the pub.
Stoke, for example, are a physical, long-ball team fond of wheeling and dealing.
Arsenal like nothing better than winning 1-0 and practice their offside trap long into the night.
It's that simple. That is, until they get a new identity.
Because Stoke under Mark Hughes is not the same as Stoke under Tony Pulis. Similarly, Arsene Wenger is not George Graham and Arsenal are, in fact, not Arsenal at all.
But it doesn't stop a long-held identity, whether things have changed or not, from being used to predict the future.
Newcastle will never win a trophy because they haven't since 1969. And Manchester United won't sign anyone in January because they usually don't.
But that was when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. Now it's David Moyes. And Moyes signs players in January. He made 22 January signings in 11 years at Goodison Park.
Some were a success, like Mikel Arteta, and some were not, like Ibrahim Saeed.
Some came in on loan, like Landon Donovan (twice). And some came in for a fee, like James Beattie, Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic. His other January signings included Brian McBride, Alan Stubbs, Jo and Steven Pienaar with varying degrees of success.
It's too simplistic to suggest Moyes will be the same manager at United as he was at Everton.
The standard for success at the two clubs is so different that it would be impossible, and foolish, for him to behave the same way at Old Trafford as he did at Goodison Park.
But Moyes has shown a willingness to shop in January.
And just because Ferguson wasn't a fan of the New Year sales—barring Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic— doesn't mean United won't spend this year. Moyes might feel that he has to.
He's already said it might take as long as two years to fully emerge from Ferguson's shadow and make his own mark. Bringing in his own players is a sure-fire way of continuing that process, and he might not want to miss an opportunity. He could also be forced into the market by the state of United's season.
Through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and sitting pretty near the top of the Premier League, he might not want to alter the harmony of the squad with new arrivals.
On the other hand, he might feel that spending money is the only way to save his first season if things haven't gone to plan.
There's a long way to go before January 1.
Of course, it all depends on whether the Glazer family are willing to open their chequebook.
But to say that United won't spend in January because they've haven't in the past is to bow to an out-dated identity.
Like it or not, they have a new one.