When replacing a legend, the best possible thing a replacement can do is leave his own distinct stamp on a club. Thus far, it seems David Moyes' distinct stamp has been to turn a Premier League winner a year ago into a side that will scramble desperately for a Champions League berth in the second half of the season.
Manchester United's nightmare 2013-14 season continued Tuesday, as the Red Devils dropped the opening leg of their Capital One semifinal to Sunderland 2-1. Combined with their loss to Swansea City in the FA Cup on Sunday, this season has been a tragedy sundae topped with incompetence and internal strife.
Moyes' squad is yet to win since the calendar came over to 2014, a stretch of three matches that has everyone at Old Trafford wringing their hands. Manchester United are in seventh place in the Premier League table with 34 points. While they are only a surmountable five points behind fourth-place Liverpool, it seems impossible that they would overtake the Arsenal-Manchester City-Chelsea triad atop the table.
You will be shocked to hear this, but plenty in Manchester are expecting proverbial heads to roll soon if things don't pick up. Moyes is safe for now, of course. It's just very much up in the air who will be staying and going from this roster over the winter transfer window—and the major names who may be arriving to help save the season.
The winter months are typically drier than the summer (oh, the irony), but desperate times call for action. Fun stuff will be happening with the Red Devils over these next couple weeks. And, even if it doesn't, parsing all the rumors and imagining the insanity if all these things actually happened is always a worthwhile endeavor.
Anyway, let's take a look at the latest news regarding the Red Devils' potential signings and departures.
Alexander Buttner Wants to Stay at Old Trafford
While many are focused on the possible cavalry that could arrive to save United's season, one of the most popular names among expected departures has been Alexander Buttner. The 24-year-old Dutchman has played only sparingly since coming over from Vitesse Arnhem, appearing in a total of just 20 matches. He scored twice in the Premier League last season but has yet to score in any of his five outings thus far in 2013-14.
Manchester Untied have him under contract going forward, but it's unclear when or if he'll ever get an opportunity to start regularly. Moyes showed faith in the young left-back by starting him in the loss to Swansea in the FA Cup—something that's better left forgotten by everyone.
Buttner wasn't particularly bad in that match; I'm just sure that if given the chance to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind their brain after that match, most would.
One could look at that start as a sign of faith or a possible showcase for other clubs. Alan Wilson of The Mirror indicated that Galatasaray and Tottenham were considering making an offer, where they would offer a chance to play and perhaps even a wage increase, which many players request when coming to personal terms on a move.
But despite being given a better chance at getting on the field, it seems Buttner is determined to make his Manchester United stay stick.
"If people talk about other players in my position, I don’t care," Buttner said, per David McDonnell of The Mirror. "I just want to play my game and show that I can handle the level. I know there are some clubs that want me but I’m happy here and want to play for Manchester United so I focus 100 per cent on here."
So that will pretty much be that for now. The winter transfer window isn't long enough for sagas to play themselves out. It's typically much more straightforward than the elongated summer break, when every club seemingly has a rumor that plays itself out and sells headlines.
If Buttner says he's not going right now, he's not going. Perhaps in the summer his answer will be different.
Neither Koke nor Diego Costa Are Going Anywhere
There is this prevailing wisdom that a job with the stature of Manchester United comes with certain perks. One of those assumed perks is that if a manager says he wants someone, everyone will move hell and high water to make it happen. Manchester United are arguably the most powerful club in the world. You say "gimme," they say "how much?"
At least, that's how it works on FIFA 14.
In the real world, folks find out it's a little more complicated. Everyone wants everyone at all times. And there are plenty of teams with lined pockets ready to make their own respective offers.
Sometimes, clubs just don't want to sell.
Such is the case with Atletico Madrid's most popular transfer targets, Koke and Diego Costa. The young talents have helped Atletico Madrid get off to a torrid start to the season, but they have become targets of Premier League clubs who see them as possibly integral parts of the future. Manchester United and Arsenal are known to be kicking the tires on both players, and the 21-year-old Koke is absolutely beloved by Moyes, per Ed Maylon of The Mirror.
Atletico's sporting director Jose Luis Perez Caminero would like to thank the teams for their interest. He would also like to make it clear in no uncertain terms they should probably be looking elsewhere.
"Diego Costa has re-signed with us, he isn't thinking about leaving" Jose Luis Perez Caminero said, per Maylon.
Oh, well that's fine. Manchester United were more interested in landing Koke. What about him? Nope.
"Koke will be with us for many more years," he said, "I'm sure of it."
Again, I tend to take a majority of these quotes at face value over the winter, so it seems unlikely that either man would leave his club. Atletico Madrid are surprisingly tied atop the La Liga standings with FC Barcelona and are no fluke. Their plus-36 goal differential is also the second-best in Spain's top division, and they seem like a stone-cold lock for the Champions League.
If it ain't broke...
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: