Keys to a Successful January Transfer Window for Manchester United
Manchester United's 2013-14 campaign is currently in a state of hysteria and a successful January transfer window sits as the most likely route toward steadying the ship.
The Red Devils recently lost three games in a row for the first time since 2001, and their Premier League league title defence is far from going according to plan.
This month, David Moyes has a massive task on his hands and there's a sample of factors that the Scot must take note of if United are to come out with a smile on their face.
1. Establishing Priorities
Given that his side remain undefeated in Europe, Moyes couldn't be blamed for looking upon the Champions League as a plausible route to salvation this term.
However, in the last 16, things are set to get a lot more difficult than anything Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk or Real Sociedad could throw, a two-legged fixture against Olympiacos next on the agenda.
Now is the time for the Old Trafford boss to decide precisely where his priorities lie in terms of holding out hope for silverware in Europe.
One major factor that tends to affect a giant of United's status during the January period is whether or not a target will be available to feature in European competition which, obviously, a massive majority of the continent's biggest faces won't be.
That being said, Moyes can put such restrictions to one side if he chooses to concentrate his efforts one way or the other, as opposed to spreading resources across both the Champions League and Premier League.
Should the former Everton man feel that domestic matters (including the potential revival of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Sunderland) are more essential and that his current, available crop are capable of going far in their international campaign, so be it.
However, what Moyes mustn't do is realise too late that he's uncertain over where to focus his efforts most and, in hindsight, come to notice that his transfer window could have been so much more.
2. Age Is Just a Number
Right now, Manchester United are in crisis; that much is common knowledge.
As such, the biggest objective on the club's mind should be getting out of a rut, the likes of which they haven't experienced in decades.
Usually, not just for United but for numerous of the Premier League big guns, a priority is placed on youthful acquisitions, preparing for the future as well as for the right now.
Such frivolities must be temporarily sacrificed in order to get the club back on an even keel.
For example, Andrea Pirlo may not fit the bill of your average Manchester United purchase, and at 34 years of age, he holds anything except great resale value.
However, for a season or two, the Italian could be of great value to United and was reported by the Daily Star's Nick Lustig as having an interest in a move to the English top flight back in November.
The veteran is much more likely to move at the end of the season when his contract expires and a final season with Juventus is out of the way, but it's merely an example of the type of player the Red Devils mustn't be afraid to go in for.
3. Quality and Quantity
Though it may seem like a fairly obvious point, it's not every transfer window that a club of United's size truly must buy not just quality but in quantity.
An argument against Moyes' squad this term is that while it may be full of options, a great deal of those players aren't up to the standards which those at the Theatre of Dreams have come to expect down the years.
According to Jack Wilson of the Daily Star, Moyes has been handed a £100 million transfer warchest by the Glazer family, a terrific sign of faith from the owners that could turn thing around at the club if all goes to plan.
Granted, pulling off the right signatures at this stage of the season will still prove difficult, and it's vital that the side learn from the mistakes of their lazy summer, in which Marouane Fellaini was their only big-money signing—and a disappointing one, at that.
4. Living in Ferguson's Shadow Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
Moyes' summer dearth of transfer activity wasn't all too surprising, however.
It's understandable that, given the size of the club he was taking the reins of, the 50-year-old may have wanted to take his time, get used to his squad and its needs before lunging into a great deal of business.
In hindsight, of course, it may not have been the correct method, but one can see the manager's thinking.
However, for some 27 years, Sir Alex Ferguson had done a fine job of United's recruitment for the most part and consulting the retired boss on who he thought was worth bringing in may have been a very efficient, and short-term, sacrifice of "dignity."
It's also understandable that Moyes would want to start things completely independently not long after his Old Trafford appointment, but the tools at his disposal may not have been used as they should.
Even with a further six months in the job, Moyes may yet consider some of the transfer targets that Ferguson was closest to. One of the most high profile of those is Benfica's Ezequiel Garay who, per the Daily Mail's John Drayton, went off the Red Devils' radar, despite looking tacked on for a move toward the end of Ferguson's tenure.
5. Trimming the Old Trafford Fat
As important as the buying will be, it's almost as crucial for the club that any unnecessary figures see their time as a Manchester United staff member come to a close this winter.
As aforementioned, there's a number of players in the Old Trafford changing room failing to hit their quotas this term, with the likes of Anderson, Nani, Ashley Young and Shinji Kagawa all sitting on the fringes.
A club such as United should have options in every area of the pitch, not to mention seeing those options compete for a place in the first team with as much ferocity as those ahead of them.
What Moyes has at the moment is a sample of first-team starters, followed by a raft of players who are simply in the squad because there's nobody around to do their job better right now.
In order not only to save themselves paying unnecessarily exorbitant wages but also to refresh the playing ranks, the Red Devils need to cut ties with a number of past stars who just don't seem up to the task any longer.