Manchester United's Fall-Back Plan to a Quiet January Transfer Window
Whilst the Glazers haven't been known to splash the cash, with our net spend per season comparable with Stoke City's and Aston Villa's over the past five years, it was assumed that Manchester United would make some considerable investment last summer.
Sir Alex Ferguson enabled United to cruise to the title in 2012-2013, despite the failings of the squad, because he was the best in the job. He was also blessed to have a fully-fit Robin van Persie for the entire season.
Still, even as champions, our flaws were there for all to see and Ferguson himself would have struggled to compete this season in light of the improvements our rivals made with their new signings.
Somehow, Ed Woodward managed to make a mess of every possibility in the summer, though, offering little more for the world-class Cesc Fabregas than what we paid for Marouane Fellaini and missing the deadline for Daniele De Rossi before we even get into the farce that was the Ander Herrera saga.
The transfer window slammed shut and all we had to show for it was Fellaini, a player we could have signed for less if we had acted sooner, and he was a far cry from the world-class players Woodward led us to believe we'd be signing.
On the day the January transfer window opened, United lost 2-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur, which would become the first of three consecutive defeats. If it was obvious that we needed new players in the summer, there is certainly no questioning the fact United are desperate for new talent to be brought in now.
Just like in the summer, we're being linked with top-class players, with Juan Mata and Dante the ones supposedly closest to moving to Manchester according to yesterday's reports, but no United fan will be holding their breath.
But let's imagine the unthinkable happens again and United don't sign any players—can they do anything to salvage this season?
Van Persie and Rooney Return
Last season, Robin van Persie didn't miss a single game and was awarded the Golden Boot for his 26 goals. When you include his assists, he scored or directly created 34 goals in 35 starts, easily outshining the likes of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez.
This season, despite missing a quarter of the games played in the league through injury, Rooney has more assists than any other player.
Together, they have played in a combined 27 games out of a possible 44 and it's fair to say their absence has been damaging. Imagine if Liverpool had gone without Suarez or Daniel Sturridge for a third of the season, or Arsenal without Ozil and Ramsey or Manchester City without Yaya Toure and Alvaro Negredo.
If United can get these two back fit from now until the end of the season, there's real hope of them securing a top-four finish.
Januzaj on the Rise
Adnan Januzaj has been a revelation and his form has been one of the few redeeming features of what has otherwise been a pretty lousy season.
Watching him last year in the reserves, it was clear he was talented, but it's always difficult to tell how easily players will make the transition to the first team. But he has taken the league by storm, growing in confidence all the time, and he is only going to get better.
Relying on an 18-year-old probably isn't the greatest of strategies, but in these desperate times, the relief of having a talent such as Januzaj is huge.
Muddling on in Midfield
Marouane Fellaini was the first midfielder United had purchased since Anderson and Owen Hargreaves in the summer of 2007. For whatever reason, it was an area that Sir Alex Ferguson left hugely neglected and we are now paying the price for that.
Our best performing central midfielders this season have probably been Darren Fletcher and Phil Jones, Chelsea game aside. They've hardly played, though, but have shown glimpses of what a proper midfield can be like.
When you compare them with the players on offer at the teams above us, they're clearly not in the same league, but if they can get a few games under their belt and play at their best, our midfield might not be quite the shambles it has been so far this season.
People have written Fellaini off already, but the truth is he has only started four games and hasn't had anything like a decent run in the team. Our captain and vice-captain, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, were similarly written off in the early days when the team in general was struggling then as well.
We can always hope that Fellaini redeems himself when he returns from injury and starts to look something like the player United fans coveted when he played against us with Everton.