Roy Keane and Rio Ferdinand
David Gill has hinted at "one last signing," which is expected to be Wesley Sneijder. But the last few days may have changed both the expectation and the need. Who should Manchester United be considering now?
For all the talk of replacing Paul Scholes, the player Manchester United never replaced was Roy Keane. Brian Robson and Paul Ince were similar in being combative and able to take play forwards.
For all his brilliance, Paul Scholes was never able to tackle without fans holding their breath. Owen Hargreaves was injury prone. Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick have had to 'fill in.'
Wesley Sneijder seems to tick the boxes, but a new twist has been added with the injuries to Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael.
Who should United consider signing in the last two weeks of the season? Sneijder could still be the "one big signing," but failing that, one or even two of the following could still arrive.
Sacrilege though it may be, is Rio Ferdinand too much of a risk? Back injuries and hamstrings are problematic when you are approaching 33.
Sir Alex Ferguson has invested wisely in Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. With his continuing belief in Jonny Evans, and Nemanja Vidic set to see out his career at Old Trafford, you might think he has all the bases covered.
Last week changed that script. With Rafael out for 10 weeks, Chris Smalling has to cover right back. Now, with injuries to Ferdinand and Vidic, United are down to the bare bones in central defence. One more injury and Michael Carrick could be on the bench as defensive cover.
Can Rio any longer be considered first-choice centre back?
Owen Coyle says nobody has bid for Gary Cahill yet. At 25, he represents with Smalling and Jones, England's defensive future. Born and brought up in the North, he would surely be happy to stay in Greater Manchester.
Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra
Manchester United played with real flair against West Brom on Saturday. The Old Trafford mantra is 'attack is the best form of defence.' But Sir Alex regarded Owen Hargreaves as the missing link when he bought him. Since the latter's injuries, he has had to use Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick in uncharacteristic defensive roles.
Lassana Diarra has Premier League experience at Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth. He is apparently surplus to requirements at Real Madrid and is the right age at 26. He has unusually good ball control for a defensive midfielder.
It is believed that Phil Jones was signed partly because of his ability to play defensive midfield, but with Ferdinand and Vidic out and big matches coming up, Diarra's experience at the highest level could be just what is needed.
He is apparently one of the players Spurs are pursuing, but has previously indicated he would love to join United.
Michael Carrick and Wilson Palacios - future team-mates?
If Lassana Diarra is not available, a suitable alternative could be Wilson Palacios. He seemed to have slipped off the radar since his move to Spurs, until Stoke showed interest in signing him and Peter Crouch.
Once again, Palacios would surely choose Manchester United over Stoke City. Sir Alex Ferguson was rumoured to be interested in him as a replacement for Owen Hargreaves for the last three years, apparently vying with Spurs when the latter signed him.
At 27, he is at the top end of United's age limits, but he has clearly fallen out of favour at Spurs and would probably be £5m cheaper than Diarra.
Wesley Sneijder, Inter Milan
Is the Wesley Sneijder saga finished? Surely not. Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill are arguably the best double act in the transfer market. Who could forget the astonishing last minute coup with Dimitar Berbatov?
Who believes Sir Alex when he rules out further signings? Yes, Tom Cleverley, Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison represent the future, but as Roberto Mancini has suggested, you need a lot more than 20 top players with all the competitions top English teams play in.
There are clear signs of financial realism creeping into transfers. Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips are just four of many who will have to take wage cuts to get a permanent move.
Sneijder is reported as being 'gutted' over the breakdown of his move to Old Trafford. Cesc Fabregas is paying up to £4 million of his own wages to move to Barcelona. Don't rule out Wesley taking a significant pay cut in exchange for 5 years at Manchester United. And, as with Fabregas, the price would be significantly lower than Inter are demanding.
Nasri to United?
Arsene Wenger has clearly conceded that Samir Nasri will follow Fabregas out of Arsenal. Which Manchester club would he rather the player joined? Clearly, he would prefer a foreign club but surely United would be better than City—the club which could permanently relegate Arsenal to also-rans.
Current wisdom has it that Manchester City have agreed terms with Nasri, but a new twist is added if they can persuade Inter Milan to swap Wesley Sneijder for Carlos Tevez. Nasri has burned his bridges at Arsenal and his representatives have previously had 'informal talks' with Manchester United.
So, if Sneijder goes to City, Nasri could fill the midfield hole at Old Trafford. At £20m, this would leave almost enough money from the Sneijder 'transfer budget' for United to buy Cahill or Diarra as well.
Mario Goetze, Borussia Dortmund and Germany
Sir Alex has for some time envied Bastian Schweinsteiger, but Bayern Munich are unlikely to sell. His understudy for Germany, Mario Goetze, is only 19—the right age for a manager building for the future.
The weekend press was full of rumours that United have turned their attention to Goetze after the breakdown of the Sneijder deal. With Michael Carrick aged 30 and Darren Fletcher aged 27 and 70 games to be played this season, you can't have too many midfielders while Pogba and Morrison mature.
Douglas Costa, Shaktar Donetsk
Manchester United love Brazilians. They have a 'feeder' relationship with Desportivo Brasil. Anderson and the Da Silva twins look like fixtures in the first team squad and Nani also speaks Portuguese.
If Sir Alex can't buy the finished product in Sneijder or Nasri, he seems likely to go for a young player with unquestioned talent and European experience. Mario Goetze is 19 and Douglas Costa is 20. Surely the latter would be delighted to swap the harsh winters of the Ukraine for Manchester's rain?
United have reputedly been tracking him for four years, and the Observer claimed that he had been spotted at the Bolton match in March 2011, with his representatives.
Sir Alex would clearly love to replicate the Barcelona style, as the first 30 minutes showed against West Brom on Saturday. Brazilian players have an intuitive understanding with each other and are born with flair. Who would be surprised if another one joined the squad before the end of August?