It's that time of the year when big clubs spend big. Despite early claims from Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson that there won't be any additions to their respective rosters, there is little reason to believe their tender pledges.
Manchester United started this season on a high characterized by free flowing football that culminated with the ruthless demolition of Arsenal 8-2 at Old Trafford. It left many wondering if they had concocted a modus operandi that could even go on to potentially dismantle Barcelona in Europe.
Those eulogizing commentaries are now gone. Over the past few months, United has barely scraped through, mostly with lone goal victories in the Premiership, thanks to the exploits of the new baby-faced assassin Javier Hernandez.
United has seen their goals depleted in recent months and a closer introspection would reveal where the problems lie.
Their real hitch is Paul Scholes' departure, which has left an irreplaceable void in the midfield. But United can get close to filling the massive gap and the focus should be just that this spring.
With Anderson Oliveira and Tom Cleverly injured, United lacks the firepower that an attacking midfielder induces. The belief is that Sir Alex will go for one more signing to bolster the midfield. With Michael Carrick and Duncan Fletcher come a sense of defense and stability, with Ryan Giggs comes spurts of legendary brilliance that translates to goals, and all United needs is one more attacking central midfielder to solve the midfield equation.
Linkages between big name players and big clubs are common with every transfer period, and United is no stranger to that phenomenon. But United, much like Ajax, pride themselves in also providing a platform for home-bred youngsters who come through the much acclaimed youth academy.
Two such players with incredible talent are midfielders Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison, with Sir Alex hinting that they could be unleashed soon on the big stage. But, this season, with United just hanging in there and trailing Manchester City as we near Christmas, it might just prove to be too big a stage for Pogba and Morrison.
With City's steadfast refusal to drop points and United's present sore form, this season has an uncanny resemblance to the 04-05 season, which also witnessed an uncharacteristically subdued performance by United in both the Premiership and Champions League against an amazing unbeaten run by Chelsea. The then new owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovich spent big in the transfer market, much like the present Man City management.
Chelsea went on to win the Premiership that season and the way Man City has started their campaign this year, they could well be within striking distance soon if they continue to showcase their prowess consistently.
However, United is a team that peaks during the second half of the season. They have, time and again, demonstrated their unique capacity to grind out results post-Christmas and exhibit exceptional quality that is second to none. All said and done, this season promises to be a cracker. And if past transfer windows are anything to go by, the coming transfer season is also shaping itself to be just as exciting.
Ever since Man City thrashed United 6-1 at Old Trafford, a plethora of names has been linked to United. Among them, just four appear United quality to me – the little speedy left back from Valencia, Jordi Alba; the young and highly skilled midfielders, Ajax's Christian Eriksen and Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze; and of course, the usual uuspect, Wesley Sneijder who has had his fair share of so-close-yet-so-far moments. And wait, this Sneijder-ManU saga promises to play out no different starting January 1st.
Here goes the prospects...
Jordi Alba is more of a long-term than immediate necessity, with Patrice Evra still in abundance at left back. Despite occasional lapses this season, the seasoned Frenchman is expected to step up to his best, as he so often has during the second half of the season.
As for the young Dane, Eriksen, and the young German, Gotze, both have been touted as exceptional young midfielders with bountiful potential to become superstars. They, for one, would suit Fergie's bill and if signed, they would continue to serve United for umpteen years. The 19 year-olds are also ideal in a different sense, one that is uniquely United and in many ways, emblematic of Ferguson's mantra and philosophy – youth that he can have authority and control over to groom their personalities and to bring the best out of them, week in and out. Both have impressive skills, are quick on their feet, and also have an incredible vision for that brilliant not-so-obvious pass that Scholes was revered for.
Additionally, Erikson has killer long range strikes at goal and Gotze has deft one touch passes. Both can occasionally make runs in the flanks as well. Though far from being termed as complete ideal attacking midfielders, they are surely among the would-be toppers and can be sufficiently molded.
There are certain characters in world sport that are a rarity. Characters that defy odds time and again, characters that would leave blood and sweat on the field for a victory, characters with such precision that they seldom fail.
To find a personality with all these qualities is a challenge. Sneijder, I believe is one such personality. His performances for Inter Milan in the Champions League and for the Dutch in the World Cup are treats to any aspiring midfielder. A class act who earned the nickname "The Sniper" for his dexterity in passing, he is probably among the best midfielders in the world today, alongside Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. The 27 year-old is worth every penny and United, I believe, will not regret catering to Inter's price tag on him and his weekly pay demands.
My heart still weeps go-for-Sneijder and I can speak for millions of United fans out there crying out for the same. He is simply greatness personified and would be the most ideal replacement for Scholes. I would be highly surprised if United didn't sign one of these three midfielders in January.
The football consciousness in me is usually awakened by United's successes and its stage actors, and occasionally awakened by a Lionel Messi or a Kaka. Add Sneijder to the latter list. Oh, how I wish he were sporting a United jersey by this time!