Just five days remain of the transfer window and, as the grains slowly spill from David Moyes' hourglass, Manchester United appear to be making little progress in their well-documented pursuit of creative reinforcements in central midfield.
Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Marouane Fellaini and Mesut Ozil have all - at one stage or another - been an object of Moyes' desire, yet still the Premier League champions do not have the playmaker they so desperately crave.
Manchester United's transfer window troubles were highlighted on Monday evening as Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, operating in central roles, failed to provide the cut and thrust required against a stout Chelsea defence.
Both Carrick and Cleverley are supremely talented operators but, against Chelsea at least, neither appeared to possess the confidence or ambition to impose their creativity on proceedings at Old Trafford.
Manchester United's want for more a energetic influence was already evident following the departure of Paul Scholes who, although far from his pomp in his twilight years, still harboured the ability and drive to pick the correct pass and find goalscoring pockets in the box.
Entering into the transfer market to unearth a successor to Scholes would suggest a departure from Manchester United's traditional first-team model, with the club often keen to promote from within rather than attempt to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in terms of financial outlay.
Only twice have Manchester United spent over £30 million on a single player - whereas their two most threatening Premier League rivals have been willing to break the £40-50 million barrier.
But Moyes has been left in a position where he must spend big in order to land his desired targets, after the failings of his predecessor resulted in the loss of two players capable providing the club with the swashbuckling, goalscoring midfielder they long for.
Paul Pogba's departure in the summer transfer window of 2012 was the result of an impasse between the player (led, perhaps blindly, by his representatives) and the club, as the young Frenchman demanded a more lucrative contract than Manchester United were willing to offer.
Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated a level of clairvoyance when, a year previous, he predicted Pogba would attempt to engineer an exit if he not promoted to the senior side, such were the gifts the teenager possessed.
There were, however, not enough opportunities for Pogba for Ferguson to adjudge him worthy of the salary he requested, and the Manchester United boss decided to cut ties with the player, accusing him of a lack of respect to the club.
Pandering to unproven youth is an attribute undesired, of course, but the scale of loss Pogba's departure presented became evident within weeks of the transfer to Juventus he secured in July of last year.
Five goals during his first season in Turin represented more than that managed by any of Manchester United's central midfielders, and the 20-year-old's performances displayed the type of all-action ability Moyes appears to yearn.
Very rarely do players leave Manchester United and surpass what they could have achieved at Old Trafford, but Pogba is an individual capable of scaling the game's heights away from the Theatre of Dreams. His departure could be the enduring error of the Ferguson era.
Ravel Morrison, less prominent in terms of profile but no less rated in terms of potential, is primed this season to demonstrate how more persistence from Manchester United could have negated the need to delve into the transfer market.
Like Pogba, Morrison proved troublesome during his time with the club, although much of the issues surrounding the latter centred around his questionable actions away from the training ground.
Morrison's off-field misdemeanours included two counts of witness intimidation and a conviction for criminal damage, but his exit from Old Trafford was attributed to his 'unrealistic' wage demands.
Ferguson had wanted to retain the services of Morrison - regarded as one of their most gifted players since Paul Scholes - but an unwillingness to satisfy his financial requests led to a hopelessly feeble exit for someone so highly-rated.
Given his perception as somewhat damaged goods, Morrison ended up not at Juve like Pogba, but with West Ham United who, until this week, the 20-year-old had not made a senior competitive appearance.
There is a palpable buzz around Upton Park at present that Morrison is ready to emerge just as Frank Lampard and Joe Cole did, and his debut performance suggested he is a player of comparative potential.
Morrison scored six times during West Ham's pre-season, and added a well taken seventh goal for the club in Tuesday's League Cup victory over Cheltenham, and is a fearless midfield runner like no player among Manchester United's esteemed number.
A move to West Ham has prompted Morrison to get on the straight and narrow, with this alteration in discipline placing him among the most exciting prospects in the English game.
Although not yet a player of Pogba's standard, Morrison is a performer Moyes would much rather have at his disposal than on the opposition, and they type of individual his midfield is crying out for.
Manchester United may have to spend £40 million to capture a successor to Scholes before the close of the transfer window, but could already have two far less than the price of one had they been willing to invest in Pogba and Morrison.
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