It's an understatement to say Manchester United are not accustomed to their current Premier League standing. United, who have not finished lower than third in the league's existence, currently sit in a dismal seventh, 11 points behind Arsenal for the top spot.
Consequently, the sharks are circling around Old Trafford, and the critics have come out in full force. Former Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow has stated that reluctance to sell to Man United could leave the Red Devils in a precarious state until the summer:
Transfer news: Christian Purslow says Manchester United could struggle in ... - SkySports http://t.co/X7OtPS9Nzw— Man United News (@manunitednews) January 6, 2014
Indeed, United boss David Moyes has come out recently and stated that while his team does have sufficient funds to spend during the January transfer window, the lack of tenable options is making it difficult for his squad to make any sweeping changes, per Sky Sports' Bryan Swanson:
The club is targeting a left-back and central midfielder and senior figures at the club have told Sky Sports News that Moyes will receive all the financial support he needs to make any moves.
But Manchester United officials, who have given Moyes their full support and have no plans to appoint a director of football to support transfer activity, will not rush into any panic buys and stress that the availability of top players remains the biggest obstacle.
'We would like to bring people in but are those players available?' Moyes asked after his club's FA Cup defeat to Swansea on Sunday. 'There is an urgency but there's no point in me hyping it up because the players we would like to bring in are probably not available in January.'
United supporters are understandably distressed in a season where virtually everything has gone wrong. With less than half the season to go, a repeat championship is not yet totally out of the question, but the margin for error is virtually nil.
Yet, there are numerous reasons why Man United should not make an impulsive purchase in a quixotic chase to repeat. For one, their own big offseason signings have not panned out, as both Wilfried Zaha and Marouane Fellaini have struggled to find their form. Throwing money at the problem does not solve United's woes, as evidenced by the Leighton Baines episode:
Indeed, internal improvement will be most vital if United are to climb back into the Champions League race. Apart from Wayne Rooney and David de Gea, the team's stars have not performed well or have been injured. Getting Robin van Persie back into shape is an absolute must, as is extracting some consistency from the team's Jekyll-and-Hyde defensive corps.
These issues are certainly not simple, and Moyes must somehow re-establish confidence in the clubhouse. As The Republic's Steve Douglas notes, Moyes might do well to replicate the motivational tactics of his predecessor:
There's no consistency to United's defensive unit and players such as Rafael da Silva, Javier Hernandez, Nani and Antonio Valencia appear to be lacking in confidence. One of Ferguson's greatest strengths was squeezing that extra 10 percent out of players, but Moyes hasn't quite been able to do that yet.
Ferguson, famously, was given time by the United board despite going his first four seasons without a trophy. Beating Crystal Palace in a replay to win the FA Cup in 1990 was seen as pivotal.
Will Manchester United finish in the top four of the Premier League?
Moyes will be less likely to receive the same cushion given United's standards, and drastically altering the roster will require more time for the new pieces to jell together. United are not Chelsea and Moyes will not lose his job; however, the supply of goodwill at Old Trafford is not limitless.
Moyes and United have their backs against the wall, and only they can pull themselves out of their mystifying rut. A big splash in this transfer window would come at a crippling cost, so ultimately, United are better off trying to turn things around internally.