Things are not looking good for Manchester United at the moment.
A club that is used to being at the summit of the Premier League and normally strikes fear into the hearts of opponents, is in a bad run of form that could leave them without a Champions League spot in 2014.
The problem at the moment is that they seem too vulnerable and their reliance on Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie highlights the general lack of quality available to David Moyes this season.
United are a club accustomed to having a star studded squad that can compete with the best clubs in all competitions. When they won the Champions League in 2008 they had a forward line of Rooney, Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been scoring goals for fun that year. Ever since then, the overall squad quality has gone down drastically.
People might argue that the current squad is basically the same as the one that won the league at a trot last year however it is clear, now more than ever, that the success experienced over the last few years is down to Sir Alex Ferguson carrying a weak team to great heights.
With Ferguson retired the magic has gone and the weaknesses of the team are plain for everyone to see.
The Red Devils have the problem that whilst they need to trim the fat and get rid of players who are holding the team back, they may also face the prospect of top players abandoning the sinking ship. This could lead to a mass exodus in the next two transfer windows.
Moyes have the numbers in defence but with Patrice Evra repeatedly linked with a move back to Ligue 1 to join PSG or Monaco and Ferdinand on the decline, some fresh blood is needed.
Everton full-back Baines is the first name that comes to mind and a reunion of Moyes and Baines seems like an inevitability. Whilst United have the likes of Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to partner the injury-prone Vidic, this is not the quality that is going to make a difference.
It is odd that the central midfield and wing positions have become such a problem for United as these have historically always been where they win matches. With Fletcher's never-ending injury crises, Tom Cleverly and Marouane Fellaini off form and Anderson seeking a move away, things look bleak in the centre of the park.
Ryan Giggs is not able to play regularly any more and Shinji Kagawa, who has found it difficult to replicate his Dortmund-form, is preferred on the wing or behind the striker.
This leaves Moyes with precious few options and none that are convincing. United need a midfield enforcer and a deep-lying playmaker in the form of Luka Modric or Ilkay Gundogan so they can start controlling games like they did in the days of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.
They are being linked to Fredy Guarin and Kevin Strootman from Inter Milan and AS Roma respectively. Whilst good players, they are not going to take the league by storm and United run the risk of settling for mediocrity when they should be pulling out the stops to acquire someone of proven quality such as Sami Khedira.
David Beckham, Giggs and Ronaldo. These are names that used to glide up and down the wings at Old Trafford. Now it is Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani. Valencia had a great start to his United career but after inheriting the number seven jersey, his form dipped.
He hoped that reverting back to his previous number would mean reverting back to previous form but he seems too predictable and does not score often enough. Young has had many injuries and this has affected his form enormously, however, he was never - and never will be - good enough for Manchester United.
Nani was seen as the new Ronaldo and in some instances it is not difficult to see why; He is capable of magic. Unfortunately he is more capable of drifting out of games and disappearing for matches at a time. Nani is expected to call time on his United career sooner rather than later and will hope he can revive his reputation as a danger man.
If there is one thing this team does have it is quality up front with Rooney, Van Persie and Javier Hernandez.
All top players who regularly perform and are reliable when called upon. Whilst in other areas of the pitch United will hope to move players on who will want to stay, they will hope to keep these strikers even though they might be looking for moves.
Rooney was close to a move to Chelsea in the previous transfer window and recent reports seem to suggest that Van Persie is also unsettled at Old Trafford. This, as well as the understandable fact that Hernandez wants more regular football - something he might get at Spurs - means that Moyes could face the horrible scenario of losing many top quality players that the team relies on very much.
Manchester United fans will hope they do not follow the path of arch-rivals Liverpool and become a selling club. Liverpool came second behind United in the league in 2009 and subsequently lost Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, Javier Mascherano to Barcelona and Fernando Torres to Chelsea in three consecutive years. This meant that Liverpool dropped out of the top four and have not been back since.
While it is hard to imagine Manchester United following this path, it is not beyond the realms of possibility.
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