How David Moyes must wish he could turn back the clock and start again. A calamitous first summer transfer window as Manchester United manager was characterised by a series of rejections and disappointment.
His sole signing - the much maligned Marouane Fellaini - has had little impact during a debut season disrupted by injuries.
As United drift further away from the domestic Champions League qualifying spots, their only realistic hope of being involved in the competition next campaign rests upon them lifting the famous trophy in Lisbon on May 24.
Following an abject display in a 2-0 away defeat to Olympiakos on Tuesday, only a resounding win at Old Trafford will secure a place in the quarter-finals.
It seems that the only European competition United fans can look forward to next season is the Europa League; less Real Madrid, more NK Maribor. This predicament has led the vultures to circle. Critics say the lack of Champions League football next season is likely to deter potential transfers and relegate United to a period of post-Ferguson exile.
This summer transfer window, therefore, promises to be the most important few months in United's recent history, and the most defining of Moyes' entire managerial career. He must be more clinical and assertive this time round. His indecision last summer meant United missed out on Thiago Alcantara - who has since excelled at Bayern Munich - as well as Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera.
However, to suggest that United will be unable to attract top European talent is naive. Doubters should look across the city at their 'noisy neighbours,' who have invested significantly since the takeover of Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
World-class talent such as Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Robinho amongst others have all been lured to the Etihad in high-profile, big-money transfers. When most of these transfers were completed, City could not offer Champions League football and were not an elite club across the continent. And yet City recruited a large wealth of talent which now competes in the Champions League, as well as the Premier League.
The same is happening in France with Paris St Germain and AS Monaco. It may require a huge sum of money, but the Old Trafford club should be able to attract the signings they so desperately require based upon their international prestige and rich history. United have the funds to acquire the personnel they desperately need, and should be able to compete with other top European clubs for the most valuable targets.
Secondly, any prospective signing would immediately endear themselves to the fans by sacrificing one season of Champions League football, in the hope that United secure qualification in 2015. Given the lack of quality with United's current line-up, any target would be guaranteed regular first-team football, which would also aid their ambitions to compete in international tournaments with their national squads.
This summer, United's strategy should be much more organised as they learn from the mistakes made twelve months earlier. Moyes will have had almost a year with his current squad, and will have identified areas most in need of improvement.
United will also be keen to conclude business prior to the World Cup, where stand-out performances can inflate the price of key players. Ed Woodward also appears to be settling in his role, and should be more effective in negotiations as a result. The Old Trafford hierarchy will also be anxious to avoid another summer of transfer debacles. This increased urgency should allow United to focus more on key targets..
Doubters beware. An animal is most dangerous when cornered.
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