As painful as this time may be for Manchester United supporters, things won't get any better if the club act rashly this month and sign an average to above-average player for a ridiculous transfer fee.
As he has for the past few weeks, David Moyes insisted United aren't desperate to bring players in, but if the right one comes along, they'd jump at the chance, per Mark Ogden of the Telegraph:
If there’s anything out there, I’ll try and bring them in, but it’s difficult. Nothing’s changed as far as that’s concerned.
I said that if the players are available, then we’ll try and get them. I would always try and wait for the right ones than take people for the sake of it.
When you couple the changeover from Sir Alex Ferguson with the injuries to Robin van Persie, you get what is firmly a transitional season.
Manchester United are in a secure enough position that they could spend a year out in the cold regarding the top four and things would be business as usual next year.
Getting value for money is always hard during transfer windows. International tournaments always inflate a player's sticker price every few years, agents are angling to drive the fee up to increase their cut, and the sheer amount of football available at one's fingertips has all but eliminated the unearthed gems the best managers in the world would pluck out every year.
In January, it's even harder to sign players for reasonable fees.
If you're the buying club, the selling club knows it has you over a barrel, whether it's the fact that your season isn't going according to plan, the short duration of the window itself or a combination of the two.
When you go into the January transfer window with money burning a hole in your pocket, you end up spending £50 million on Fernando Torres or £35 million on Andy Carroll.
Manchester United unquestionably need reinforcements, especially in midfield.
The problem is, what are they realistically going to get this month?
Ilkay Gundogan has been linked with the club, per the Daily Mirror's David McDonnell.
That's the same Ilkay Gundogan who has played in only one match this season because of injury.
By the time he would arrive at Old Trafford, he'd need at least a month to get back to match fitness. And then there's the time he'd need to bed in with the team and adjust to Moyes' tactics.
When everything is finally all set, it could already be March or April.
Claudio Marchisio is another name on the rumour mill. Samuel Stevens of The Independent reported the Red Devils were preparing a £20 million bid.
The 27-year-old would unquestionably be a smart addition. He's contributes in the defensive end and could also operate as the link between the defense and the attack.
But this is a transfer that would seem unlikely to happen and, if it did, United would be overpaying for a player who's a year or two away from beginning his career decline.
Juventus' pursuit of the Serie A title means they would unlikely be too wiling to part with such a talented midfielder, no matter how marginalised he's been.
Manchester United are one of the richest clubs in the world, so they could afford to spend an astronomical amount of money in January, but it would make much more sense to wait until the summer.
New additions then would have more time to bed into the club and the Red Devils could find better value in the transfer market.