For football fans, disaster in December leads inevitably to one thing—counting down the days until the January transfer window.
The mid-season sales promise something that is both thrilling and dangerous in equal measure. Hope. Hope that early season misfortune can be put right with a couple of choice signings. Hope that there's still a chance of success and perhaps silverware come May.
Manchester United's back-to-back home defeats to Everton and Newcastle have all but ended their chances of retaining the Premier League title. David Moyes' priority now is to ensure there is Champions League football at Old Trafford next season.
United's struggles have highlighted the squad's deficiencies, the creaking bodies at the back, the wide players struggling for form and a midfield devoid of creativity and invention.
Three weeks before the start of the January transfer window, it's easy to believe the problems can all be solved with a trolley dash. As January approaches, United and Moyes will be linked with player after player. An exciting winger perhaps, or a midfield general.
But there's a temptation to think of January like one of those digital medical kits on a war-themed computer game. That if United can limp, bloodied and bruised, towards January 1, their health will be somehow magically restored by Cesc Fabregas or Daniele De Rossi.
But it's not going to happen. January isn't the time for major surgery.
Sir Alex Ferguson left Moyes a squad reliant on ageing players like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick. And it will be up to Moyes—should he complete his six-year contract—to oversee a changing of the guard.
But not halfway through his first season, however badly it's gone.
Moyes may well make a signing next month. He told the Manchester Evening News last week that he is "always thinking about strengthening" adding: "You do that every transfer window. We will try and make that happen."
But United's fortunes this season don't depend on Moyes' January business. They'll be determined by his ability to instill confidence in the players he already has in the hope they can rediscover the form that helped them run away with the title last season. He will also need to find a system that stops teams like Everton and Newcastle from dominating in midfield.
January offers Moyes the chance to tweak his squad with one or two new players. But there won't be massive changes because there very rarely are.
United's hopes of dragging themselves back into the title race and qualifying for Europe rest with the players who are already there. One bonus for Moyes is that he doesn't have to wait until January to start doing that.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!