Manchester United: Why It's Clear the Red Devils Are Headed Straight Downhill

Peter Webster@@petercwebsterContributor IIIDecember 19, 2011

As I write this article, Manchester United sit second in the Premier League table, just two points behind an impressive Manchester City team.

Unfortunately for Manchester United fans, I fear that the club is overachieving in their current position, and their standards drastically need to improve if they want to be in with a chance of winning the title.

For just the second time in 16 attempts, United failed to make the final stages of the Champions League this month, after a poor display against FC Basel resulted in a loss and sent them careering into Europa League action. Whilst United have cranked out a succession of 1-0 victories in the league recently, the performances were far from impressive.

A 4-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers may have dulled the Champions League headache, but Wolves were never expected to cause an upset. Similarly, this last weekends fixture against QPR was hardly a recipe for disaster.

Vidic's season long layoff through injury will see the resurgence of Chris Smalling and Johnny Evans to the United first team, and Ferdinand seems to be getting back to his best level, but he's been so injury-plagued over the past few seasons that you can't rely on him to stay fit anymore.

The true test for United will be how their defense copes with the impressive forwards that grace the Premier League now. Aguero, van Persie, Suarez, Adebayor, Sturridge and Ba have all shown what they can do already this season, and an afternoon facing Johnny Evans and Chris Smalling won't be daunting to them at all.

Manchester City are looking strong favourites to claim this season's league title, and Chelsea may benefit from an upturn in fortunes following their shock win over the league leaders.

Add that to the impressive form of Arsenal (prior to the City game) and Spurs, and Manchester United have cause for concern.

Ferguson has stated that he is not looking to purchase in the January transfer window, and that decision could be a bad one. It's easy to say that he's never been much of a January buyer in the past, but football is ever-evolving; and just because he didn't bother in the past doesn't mean he should dismiss the idea so easily.

Whilst Manchester United have been in this position time and again, I believe that their team is considerably weaker—particularly in midfield—this season following the retirement of Paul Scholes.

The summer chase for Wesley Sneijder that never materialised meant that Ashley Young was Ferguson's marquee signing; and Young's form has dipped dramatically since his impressive start.

Darren Fletchers news regarding his bowel problems is another blow for an already stretched squad that sees Vidic, Fabio, Rafael, Anderson, Fletcher, Cleverley, Gibson, Owen and Hernandez all on the treatment table.

Ferguson needs to buy if he expects a 20th title this term.