So does Karim Benzema. How Sir Alex must regret the eternal pull of Real Madrid and the Spanish weather. The French striker is unlikely to feature at Old Trafford any time soon (unless as a makeweight for the sale of Wayne Rooney...and we'll take Sami Kedhira, please!)
A couple of years ago, Kaka would definitely have fit the bill. Now, although he is more likely to be available than ever before, he is unlikely to be on Sir Alex's shopping list.
Yes, he's a potential straight swap for Paul Scholes but, like Fernando Torres, he looks a shadow of the former self that commanded a £60 million fee from AC Milan. He played only 14 games last season and, although he has already made 13 appearances this year, there remain question marks about his pace and fitness for the Premier League.
What Would Persuade Fergie to Open His Purse?
Sir Alex has variously suggested: There is no value in January; he needs no signings; he would only sign a top player, but they aren't available; etc.
So what, if any, are the key characteristics that would persuade him to splash the cash?
While the Champions League exit may have dented the bottom line to the tune of £20 million, United are still in the Europa League and in any case, a highly visible, credible signing or two would add more brand value if the Singapore float was to go ahead.
The Glazers have apparently confirmed that Fergie can spend for players who would add value to the squad. There is apparently £67 million cash available.
For all that Sir Alex eschews January signings, he made two key ones in Evra and Vidic. The coup for Hernandez though, in summer 2010, came out of the blue, as did the former two. But this time any likely targets are probably already in the public domain.
The Critical Factors
In the cold light of day, United have done very well to be ahead of this time last season and only three points off the pace despite the injury crisis they are still in.
While you cannot afford to build a squad big enough to cope with any such crisis, Sir Alex will undoubtedly focus on one factor above all, whether he swoops in January or the summer—versatility.
Versatility in being able to play more than one position but also—and this is critical—any United player coming in or coming up must be able to attack as well as defend (and vice versa). We might call this adaptability.
We're not talking a utility player here, like John O'Shea, but Phil Jones, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney have already shown a willingness to sublimate their own preferences in favour of the team's needs.
The next, most obvious factor, based on my previous article and sheer realism, is availability.
And finally, though we won't mention it later, it is a given that any player wanting to come into the club must want to play—and stay—at United. So no gold-diggers please!
And sadly, this latter has become critically important in the case of two players who could save United a fortune in the future—Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison.
Both have been linked with moves away, and both have incurred the displeasure of Sir Alex because they have appointed new agents to secure them the best deal. Paul Scholes never needed a "super-agent."
Sadly, Sir Alex would rather let these two starlets go than be held to ransom. The fans might get uppity, but if either decides to jump ship for more money, they are not committed anyhow, and the spectre would raise its ugly head in the future.
Ravel Morrison can simply not be trusted. Sir Alex has tried to advise the lad, following his three brushes with the law, but there is no reason yet to believe he has learned his lesson. His absence from playing—even for the reserves—suggests he has fallen from favour.
Of the two, therefore, it seems likely that Pogba would remain.
Why else is this significant? Because if they were both going to stay, bringing in new midfielders would reduce their chances; if they are not, then all the more reason for Sir Alex to look to the future, with someone like Goetze.
So versatility, adaptability, availability and hunger are key. The other commodity that Paul Scholes' return from retirement suggests is a lack of experience in the squad going forward.
Scholes' re-emergence may also be significant in a couple of other ways: He may be a stop-gap until Tom Cleverley is fit (currently not likely before mid-February), but it also suggests that no midfielder is expected before the summer.