Following Manchester United's game with Swansea City on Saturday panic has set in with both fans and the majority of sports journalists, with many suggesting a meltdown at the giants of English football. Are they right to be so concerned?
There is little doubt that the Reds require new recruits and that time is running out for Ed Woodward to deliver the players the club require to compete.
Three players have already arrived in the shape of Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and, most recently, Marcos Rojo. All of them seem to offer enormous potential, but will need to learn how to cope with life at big club and develop the consistency of performance required.
The current United squad is already one of the youngest in the Premier League and have lost the experience, influence and leadership of Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra and Giggs. There is no doubt that introducing proven performers is crucial in order to stabilise the current situation.
For the chop?
How many players, then, need to be signed by September 2 in order to save Manchester United's season?
In order to answer that question, lets cast our minds back to a match that took place three years ago, on the 28th August, 2011. Arsenal were the visitors to Old Trafford and a young Manchester United thrashed them by an incredible eight goals to two. Granted, Arsenal had a long injury list, but United were also missing some key defenders.
The United's team that day requires closer examination. It was:
De Gea; Smalling; Jones; Evans; Evra; Nani; Anderson; Cleverley; Young; Welbeck and Rooney
Incidentally, the scorer of Arsenal's second goal was a certain Robin Van Persie.
There are two reasons to reflect on this game. Firstly, this young team were hailed by many of the same fans, and writers, as the start of a great new era and, secondly, ten of them are still at the club.
The question is why have all these players seemingly gone backwards and do they still have something to offer to the club? Is it possible to lose your natural ability and why have so many of them failed to reach their potential.
The answer probably lies in that word that is key to all sports, namely confidence. United, for some time now, have looked like a team that is bereft of confidence, particularly those players who were so impressive three years ago against Arsenal.
Van Gaal can take heart from the fact that these players probably have what it takes and that, with his excellent coaching skills and encouragement, they can re-discover their belief and form.
The Dutch coach probably also knows, then, that the core of his squad is good and will be willing to learn from his methods. What he requires, in the short term, is an injection of three top class players who can step straight into the first eleven and help the undoubted young talent to blossom.
There are patently three positions that need strengthening: midfield, central defender and wing back/winger. The latter in order to give a much needed injection of pace to the team.
The midfield position requires a player such as the frequently linked, Arturo Vidal, who can provide all round energy, excellent defensive qualities and eye for goal. Failing this, a top class holding player such as Nigel de Jong or Daley Blind, all of whom have been strongly linked with United, would suffice.
Matts Hummels and Roma's Mehdi Benatia in central defence would be ideal, but a less classy, but more likely option, would be Ron Vlaar, who Van Gaal knows well from his Holland days.
The wing-back option is the lively Colombian World Cup ace, Juan Cuadrado, who would offer know how in the position and electric pace. Alternatively, if the choice is the brilliant Angel Di Maria, who has just asked for a transfer, then it may well be that Van Gaal opts for a more traditional 4-3-3 formation.
Whatever the choices are, then one can see how such signings would significantly upgrade United's options and enable them to field an enviable first eleven.
Even with just the two odds on signings of Di Maria (2/5 Skybet) and Vidal (1/10) then United's team would be transformed. This high quality eleven could be put to the field against QPR on September 14th:
Valencia; Jones; Rojo; Shaw;
Herrera; Vidal; Di Maria
Mata; Rooney; Van Persie.
Over to you Mr Woodward! It just might be that rumours of Manchster United's death have been greatly exaggerated.
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