No doubt there will be 100 different rumours about Manchester United's possible transfer targets in January, but Sir Alex Ferguson has his own clear views.
OK, so there could be no doubt that he would love to have his adopted "son" Cristiano Ronaldo back, but that isn't going to happen. His buy-out clause is one billion Euros. Maybe he'll return after he's 30. After all, look at Kaka, apparently unwanted by anyone last summer.
In the past, Sir Alex has eschewed making signings in January. He has been concerned about market value in general, but has never seen the need to make a panic buy.
However, we may have to reassess our ideas of what he thinks is value after his £24 million purchase of 29-year-old Robin Van Persie. He looks every bit as good a bargain as Eric Cantona did for £1 million in November 1992.
Rationalising or finalising?
United have at least 80 players of various ages who are registered to play for the first team. That doesn't mean they are in the squad registered with the FA, but this can be adjusted in January.
Clearly, many of the younger players will never make it at Old Trafford, or will leave to pursue first team football elsewhere.
Ritchie Jones was released from United after playing in the Youth Cup and making five first team appearances. Last night, he was one of the Bradford City heroes who knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup despite missing a penalty.
Ryan Shawcross wanted first team football, as did Giuseppe Rossi, Gerard Pique, Paul Pogba and other young men who have gone on to star elsewhere.
Sir Alex seems to be something of a "collector." Even without James Wilson (the 16-year-old who is on fire for the Under 18s), he has 10 eligible over-18 strikers on the books. At least three of those are unlikely to make it. They could all be made available in January.
But it seems that won't stop him coveting other strikers like Robert Lewandowski.
It makes sense to consider "clearing the decks" at all levels. In any transfer window from now on, Sir Alex should be watchful for interest in some of his younger players where he honestly can't see them becoming first team fixtures in the long term. It's only fair to the player.
But he will also give serious consideration if there are approaches for some of his senior players, most notably Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand and of course, Nani.
Vidic would only be released for serious money (like the rumoured £30 million Russian bid) and only if a top-class replacement was lined up.
Rio Ferdinand is currently expected to be offered a new one-year contract next year, eventually retiring to the coaching staff. But there has been apparent interest in him from China and previously the MLS
There is no immediate replacement at Old Trafford. Buttner had a sparkling debut, but has still not made a case to be first choice. Fabio has been injured at QPR, so he may need until next summer to stamp his mark on a left back role.
And Nani...what more needs to be said? Supposedly out with a hamstring injury, it may be instead that it is actually Sir Alex's patience that has finally snapped. While he may have to pay up for quality, he could consider a swap or part exchange for a top young player as good business.
So while we are unlikely to see "development" players coming in this January, there are plenty of options available for the manager to fine tune his squad ready for the twin goals of Premier and Champions League. A fitting double to go out on?
These boards are also riddled with "fantasy football" speculation and suggestions all the time. We shall try to look inside the manager's mind and see which six players he would seriously consider as value. By that, we mean quality matched with price.
So RVP was "value," even at £24 million, and nobody can deny the potentially title-winning impact he has had.
Arsene Wenger's opinion of value has led Arsenal into the position where they have far too many "squad players" and too few genuine stars. Even Lucas Podolski has begin to raise eyebrows with indifferent performances.
And be under no illusions. As the Van Persie buy showed, the Glazers will support Sir Alex at any price for any player that he sees fit to buy.
What Sir Alex wants to do now is leave his fellow Premier League contenders in United's dust and set the club up for the next decade of success.
Players are haemorrhaging from Arsenal because they haven't won a trophy for seven years. They already have no chance of the Premier League, and last night, limped away from Bradford City. They have lost too many star players who do not share the Arsenal Bpard's vision for the future.
That fact, the elimination of Chelsea and Manchester City from the Champions League, the unrest at Real Madrid and the lack of long-term credibility of the "nouveau riche" like Paris St Germain surely puts Sir Alex back in the box seat if he wants to attract top players this January.
So who are the selected six?
Theo Walcott is a player who can frustrate just as much as he appears to be frustrated himself.
There are strong rumours that Manchester United have joined the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in expressing an interest in the 23 year old.
Fortuitously, it also appears Arsene Wenger seems to be interested in Nani.
So this rumour seems to have legs. Let's consider why.
Walcott is in the final year of his contract to Arsenal. Like Robin Van Persie, Arsene Wenger doesn't want to lose him at all, but he certainly won't let him go without a fee.
Manchester City might hope to lure him into joining former Arsenal teammates, but Sir Alex may not be alone in concluding that Samir Nasri's expensive move has not been a stellar success after Sunday's shocker.
Wenger surely would rather let Walcott go to United than City. And he certainly won't entertain a transfer to Chelsea because of the cross-London rivalry which could bite him every day of the week if Walcott succeeded.
It is said that Walcott has an excellent playing and professional relationship with Robin Van Persie, and he only needs to look at the instant impact the Dutchman has made to be tempted.
Once again, this move may not be entirely about money. Walcott is professionally very ambitious. He wants to be an England regular. If he sees Nani going out of the other side of United's revolving door, he must surely back his chances to be a first-choice player.
Looking at City, he would see David Silva, Tevez, Aguero and possibly Nasri as being probable rotation threats.
Like Nani, Walcott seems to be unhappy with the cash deal Arsenal have offered. Nani is on £90,000 a week. Walcott is reputed to have turned down £75,000 a week at Arsenal. What would he settle for at Old Trafford?
Nani is far more temperamental than Walcott, so Sir Alex might readily offer the £90,000 that he would be saving from the Portuguese star.
As far as the Arsenal end is concerned, there are also rumours that Wenger would consider Nani. Apart from the obvious point that this would put both managers in a strong position for a part-exchange deal (with, say £10 million going to United), it would allow Wenger to save face with minimal nuisance.
Ironically he might also find it easier to offer something approaching the wages the established Portuguese international would settle for as an incoming buy. Paying your existing players more is always more likely to create internal friction and a queue at the manager's door.
We don't need to dwell on what Walcott would bring to Old Trafford. He seems to be a likable young man who would fit very well with the "team above individual" United values.
He is a dangerous player who will only get better. He can play on either wing (although he prefers the right) and as a striker. Like Gareth Bale, he has the capacity to terrorise opposition defenders and also scores goals from the wing.
If Sir Alex is required to wait for James Rodriguez at an inflated fee of up to £35 million or considers £20 million too much of a risk for the untried Wilfried Zaha, he might very well settle for Walcott if he can get the deal done as quickly as possible, including shipping Nani out in the process.
And this is another talented and likable young man who would fit very well at Old Trafford.
If Sir Alex doesn't land Walcott, then this remains his prime target for a replacement wide player when Nani goes. Indeed, there have been suggestions that Nani could go in part-exchange to Porto.
There are three immediate snags, however.
Porto may well not be prepared to pay Nani's current wages, let alone what he may be demanding at Old Trafford.
Porto are in the knockout stages of the Champions League, along with Manchester United. So not only are they likely to want to keep him, but also, he would be cup-tied if he moved.
Maybe Sir Alex would be prepared to take that gamble, but Rodriguez would almost certainly prefer to wait until Porto were eliminated before deciding his future. That could lead to a summer move rather than January.
He is rumored to have a £36 million buyout clause, which appears to be somewhat careless again by Sir Alex, who could have had him for £24m last summer apparently. That doesn't seem to have put him off. however, if the scouting reports are to be believed.
Compared to Walcott, the Colombian is the better, cheaper, prospect. But you can bet that Sir Alex would see the value argument in favour of the Arsenal player if he came at anything less than £10 million.
So letting Nani go and bringing in Walcott could leave £15 million available for at least one other player.
Facially, he resembles a swarthy Michael Carrick, but that's where the comparison ends. This rumour just won't go away, so we can definitely assume that Sir Alex would have him on his Christmas wish list.
Not surprisingly, people keep banging on about the need for a defensive midfield player. Sir Alex has made clear he doesn't want one and has previously said that MIchael Carrick is the pivot of the team.
gives a clear insight into the manager's thinking. In it, he says:
In the modern day game, you don't need tacklers the same way you used to, There's no call for it. It's about anticipation and reading the game.
The refereeing is also of such a standard now that you can hardly tackle anyone, so that sort of thing isn't the same issue as it used to be.
Carrick can read the game and also play in front of the back four. If you look at the central midfielders in the Premier League, he can match up against any of them in terms of quality – the likes of (Luka) Modric, Yaya Toure, those are probably the best central midfielders and Gerrard.
But of course, people miss the days of Roy Keane and somewhat simplistically suggest that is the answer to the recent defensive problems.
Michael Carrick wasn't overrun on Sunday, and nor was Tom Cleverley. Most of the defensive failures have been from set-pieces, which has nothing at all to do with who is in midfield.
The modern game is much more about pressing, harassing, surrounding, intercepting or preventing the pass. You only have to touch the likes of Santi Cazorla, Luis Suarez or Gareth Bale, and they go down like a sack of potatoes, winning a free kick.
Now, that is not to say that United wouldn't welcome Strootman. Those who think Wanyama is a better or cheaper option might think again, as he is primarily a ball-winner like Jon-Obi Mikel. Strootman is the better footballer.
And if Porto aren't letting Rodriguez go, Celtic surely won't release Wanyama. He will also stay for the duration of their glory-filled ECL run. And he would also be cup-tied.
Meanwhile, PSV didn't even make the Europa League Finals, and although they have a very real chance of the Dutch League title, surely Strootman would be attracted by the prospect of being pitched straight into the Champions League knockout stages at United?
There have been plenty of stories about United's interest in him. Some suggesting a summer move and others a January transfer.
Sir Alex doesn't normally like to hang around once he's made his mind up, but a £15 million cash bid might appeal to Dick Advocaat, allowing him to freshen his squad during the window. After all he does have Mark Van Bommel.
At the very worst, Sir Alex might let the ball-winning playmaker remain until the end of the season if that's what it takes to get him.
On the other hand, Ryan Tunnicliffe is beginning to show some form again. Of the next group of possible graduates into the United first team, he is the only one that can play a more combative role in midfield, thereby avoiding the need for Phil Jones to be played there. He is also showing the most hunger for promotion, based on performances like Monday night's.
Nick Powell is already a "shoe-in" for a future midfield berth, probably replacing Michael Carrick in due course, so why not Ryan, who offers the unique combination that Roy Keane did and, despite being raw, would save the manager at least £15 million.
Daft as it may seem, Sir Alex still seems interested in another striker. Hardly surprising really when you consider he was one himself.
While there will be idle speculation about the likes of Radamel Falcao and Fernando Llorente, Robert Lewandowski seems certain to be the one Sir Alex has settled on.
In fact, it probably suits him that City and Chelsea are being linked to Falcao. It leaves the field free for him to pursue the Pole and would also take a mighty whack out of the finances of the club that buys him, with FFP beginning to bite.
Falcao is probably the world's top striker at the moment (Messi is the top goalscorer). His stunning five-goal spree over the weekend may well have scared Abramovich or Mansour into jumping before the Colombian's price tag is hiked again.
Llorente is an interesting one. He is clearly out of favour at Bilbao and will definitely leave in the summer at the latest. But actually, there is no real reason for him to stay beyond January. At least Bilbao would get a modest fee for him.
He would probably suit City, with Falcao going to Chelsea. We have suggested here strongly in the past that Llorente would fit United, but Lewandowski is a younger and better proposition.
Neither of the other two put in the work rate for their team that the Dortmund player does.
The evidence of his United destination grows stronger every day, but yet again, the move may well be delayed until summer because of Dortmund's real chance of winning the Champions League.
How does he fit in? Unlike other people, we don't see Hernandez being sold. Robin van Persie probably has three seasons at United before he retires to the MLS or another marquee club.
The answer is for Rooney to drop into the CAM role, or even the position alongside Carrick in a 4-2-3-1. He has all the capabilities, loves a challenge, expects to finish his career in midfield and would provide the goals from there that Sir Alex wants to augment his strikers.
Again, the only major downside is the potential knock-on effect on the talented youngsters like Keane, Hernandez and Welbeck. Yet another reason for Sir Alex to offload King, Macheda, Bebe and Cofie.
It is a racing certainty that Leighton Baines is on Sir Alex's wish list. He is currently MVP in the Premier League and one of the most effective defenders in the whole of Europe.
The media has been speculating about this move for a year or two now. Patrice Evra is not getting any younger; his effectiveness is diminishing. Buttner is not ready yet, and Sir Alex dare not wait until Evra has an injury.
The recent stories suggest that PSG's interest in Evra could trigger the Baines move, but maybe it's the other way around.
David Moyes would certainly not want to let his star player go, and Sir Alex may have to pull a favour with one of his closest mates.
One way to do that would be to let Everton have players in return to sweeten the pill. While Bebe wouldn't appeal, a switch for Macheda, King or Brady might suit all parties concerned.
We have lauded the talent of Mats Hummels several times before. He or his sidekick, Neven Subotic, would enhance the United squad.
What may have moved this up Sir Alex Ferguson's agenda is the recent injury record of Nemanja Vidic and the apparent interest from Russia.
The thing is, there is no way Anzhi could attract Hummels, but they could get Vidic, while United are clearly interested and a possible destination for Hummels, even as early as January apparently.
It would really only make sense for Vidic's Serbian compatriot to move if the United captain stays. Subotic has recently signed a new contract for Dortmund, which, while it protects him from going, may be an insurance policy if Hummels moves.
Dortmund had massive financial challenges a few years ago and will be intent on remaining both solvent and able to meet the FFP strictures. While, like Arsenal, they do not want to be seen as a selling club, they do keep unearthing new talent to replace the outgoing players, while enriching the coffers.
So who do you think are realistic targets for United? Do you think Zaha or Ince are more likely than Walcott or Rodriguez? Nicolas Gaitan more likely than Kevin Strootman?
Shelve the fantasy football ideas for a moment and post your considered views on here.