The next few weeks could well shape the future of new Manchester United manager David Moyes.
Struggling in the league – where they are now odds against at 13/8 for a top four finish – and now out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle the former Everton man is testing the patience of even the fairest among the Old Trafford faithful.
Moyes tried and failed to land a number of top targets in the summer but reports from Sky Sports News suggest the Scot has been told that “significant funds” have been made available for rebuilding.
One wonders what a Roy Keane rant about the current state of the squad would sound like with a number of players arguably not up the task of turning things around.
Nani, Anderson, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Fabio and Alex Buttner, while all talented footballers on their day, do not look like the sort of players the champions can rely on to prolong an era of success at Old Trafford.
And while Moyes himself has hinted that an “overhaul” of the squad is required the left back and central midfield spots have been identified as priorities.
Recruiting top talent can be a difficult task midseason with United’s Champions League rivals unlikely to want to boost the Red Devil’s ranks: so who should Moyes be targeting?
Leighton Baines has been perennially linked with a move to Manchester since Moyes departed Goodison Park but Everton seem extremely reluctant to sell so United would be better of pursuing Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao or Southampton’s Luke Shaw.
Buttner was brought in to provide competition for Patrice Evra but the Dutchman looks a far cry from being title-winning material, while Evra himself has been off the boil of late.
Coentrao would be the more sensible option at present and at 25-years-old could slot straight into the team.
Shaw, however, would be expected to learn from Evra and while that would be fine in an ideal world, the Frenchman’s form – or lack thereof – means the matter is more urgent – so the Madrid man gets the nod – or both if Evra and Buttner can be offloaded.
In midfield Luka Modric is often touted as exactly what United need and as solid as that statement may be the move looks very unlikely to happen, with the Croatian starting 26 games and looking to be enjoying himself at Real Madrid.
A more realistic option – despite the rarity with which top Premier League clubs conduct business with each other – is Chelsea’s Juan Mata.
The Spaniard has completed 90 minutes just twice in the league for the Blues this year and while Jose Mourinho would be reluctant to strike a deal with a domestic rival the move could go some way to greasing the wheels of a potential Wayne Rooney bid.
Rooney has asked away twice before and with his contract running out it seems unlikely he would remain at United should they miss out on the top four.
Allowing Moyes to sign the 25-year-old would probably not go down well with the Stamford Bridge fans.
But if it meant Rooney eventually setting up in west London all would be forgiven.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
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