History suggests that Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has taken a monumental risk by not strengthening his squad in the January transfer window.
When Edward Glazer put his stake in the club up for sale, he sent a prospectus to potential investors attempting to show why his three million shares were worth £25 million. In that prospectus he claimed Manchester United were in a position to sign any player in the world.
According to a report in The Express, Van Gaal and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward plan on bringing some of the biggest names in football to Old Trafford. The ultimate aim is to shoot Manchester United's value up to £3 billion so the Glazer's can finally cash in on their highly-leveraged investment.
Key to the plan
Key to this plan working is qualifying for the Champions League. If they want to attract the best players they must offer the chance to play at the highest level. Angel di Maria was brought to the club under the impression that they would definitely reinstate themselves in Europe's elite competition by next season. That presumption is now looking more like a pretence.
While third place seems a comfy place to be at the moment, one loss could potentially see the Red Devils drop all the way to sixth. It is a compact race involving five teams for two places. The margins are bound to be fine and Manchester United have just handed their rivals a big advantage by not strengthening in the mid-season transfer window.
The season is going to be long and hard from this moment on with the squad players likely to be called upon to fill in for injured or fatigued stars. The January checkpoint was a good chance to replenish reserves, but Van Gaal, despite having a plethora of options, chose to run through it without a glance at what was on offer. It is a mistake his Premier League rivals have made in the past.
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Aston Villa - 2008/09
It is hard to believe that Aston Villa were challenging for a top four place only six years ago. Now, they are the lowest goal scorers in the league and struggling for survival. Imagine how different it would have been had they qualified for the Champions League and sealed the financial bounty that comes with it. It could have caused a butterfly effect that would have put them in a much stronger position than they are now.
When the 2009 January window closed Aston Villa had 48 points off 24 games. They were five points ahead of fifth placed Arsenal and were looking strong. Martin O'Neill's January business consisted of the £3.5m deal to bring Emile Heskey in from Wigan Athletic.
They reaped 14 points from their remaining 14 games and finished sixth with Heskey scoring twice. It was enough of a slump to see Arsenal complete a 15 point swing to finish in their familiar place.
Tottenham - 2011/12
If you still can't mention the war in Germany then you definitely can't mention the 2011/12 season around White Hart Lane. This was the golden generation of Tottenham teams with the likes of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and an in-form Emmanuel Adebayor.
After 24 games they had 49 points and sat in third place just five points off the top. More importantly, they were 12 points clear of north London rivals Arsenal. But the wheeler dealer that is Harry Redknapp failed to come up with the goods in January. He spent no money, only signing Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha on free transfers.
Redknapp's inability to rotate left his squad on fumes by the time spring rolled around. 28 separate injuries between February and May weakened the squad sufficiently to see their excellent start to the season go to waste.
They would get just 20 points off their last 14 games and finish behind Arsenal in fourth. Thanks to Chelsea winning the Champions League, they were automatically demoted to the Europa League. Like I said, don't mention it.
Arsenal - 2013/14
Arsene Wenger made headlines after personally signing off on a loan deal that saw Kim Kallstrom join Arsenal on a six-month loan deal from Spartak Moscow. Not only was this a player few thought capable of playing in the Premier League, but he also arrived with a cracked vertebrae.
He would spend months on the sidelines and make only one Premier League start before going back to Russia. When Kallstrom arrived Arsenal were jostling with Manchester City for top spot. After 24 games they were two points clear with 55 points. By the end of the season they would have dropped to fourth having picked up an unimpressive 24 points from their final 14 games.
Manchester United - 2014/15?
Manchester United are currently in third place with 43 points. They made just one addition in the January window in Bolton defender Andy Kellett, who is believed to be cover for the under-21 team.
Van Gaal has already had to cope with an extensive injury list and his refusal to pay a premium to sign even one of his summer targets could leave them desperately short at a time where they can not afford to slip up.
Nathaniel Clyne, Seamus Coleman, Mats Hummels and Kevin Strootman would have all cost more in the January window than they will in the summer, but for a club like Manchester United, where an extra £5 million on a transfer fee means nothing, declining the chance to strengthen is a significant and unnecessary risk from Van Gaal.
They have a squad capable of finishing in the top four, but there are no guarantees in the Premier League. As the season wears on and players get tired, injured and demotivated, there is a significant chance that mistakes will happen. Those mistakes have cost teams in the past and they could well cost Manchester United.
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