David Moyes needs to rejuvenate his squad in the transfer window to rescue a difficult first season at Old Trafford
Anderson, 25, cost £27m, contracted until summer 2015
Billed as better than Wayne Rooney in his teenage years in Sir Alex Ferguson's recent book, the Brazilian has become the club's perennial disappointment. Signed in 2007 for what now reads as a barely credible £27m, the midfielder has managed 70 league starts in six years, with how he remains at United a puzzle for fans. The quips aimed at Anderson about his weight by his own-teammates point to a player who has seriously stagnated. In the final two years of his deal a January sale would make sense though the club might struggle to receive £10m for him.
Antonio Valencia, cost £16m, contracted until summer 2015
Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani are a gang-of-three Manchester United widemen whose stock has fallen. But while Young and Nani can still have a fizz and match-winning quality about their play, the Ecuadorian is too pedestrian too often. Allowing him to leave might give more opportunity for Wilfried Zaha, whose pace and nose for a goal is yet to be given a consistent run in the XI. If Moyes no longer had the conservative fall-back of selecting Valencia then Zaha might just surprise the Scot, who is yet to be convinced of the former Crystal Palace man's abilities.
Alexander Buttner, contracted until 2017, cost around £3.9m
The Dutch left-back is a decent enough footballer but not of the quality required to become United's first-choice as Patrice Evra enters the autumn of his career. Moyes's pursuit of Leighton Baines put in capitals what his thoughts are regarding the 24-year-old's future at the club, with Buttner coming close to joining Besiktas on loan before the deal to sign the Everton man this summer fell through. In September, Buttner said of Moyes: "He told me that I had come far enough to play for Manchester United this season." That would change in January if the manager had a better option.
Luke Shaw, Southampton contracted until 2018, cost £15m-20m
Moyes may well prefer Baines but the politics of trying to prise him from Goodison Park has already produced the failure of the previous transfer window. There is also a debate to be had regarding whether the £20m and more demanded by Bill Kenwright, the Everton chairman, is good business for a 29-year-old when a faster, more vibrant and far younger, at 18, choice would be to take Shaw. Evra has let no one down this season so the Southampton player could be eased in as the long-term successor and his recruitment would also send a message about where Moyes is taking his team.
Andros Townsend, Tottenham Hotspur, contracted until 2018, cost £20m-25m
The season's most exciting emerging player would inject a pace and directness that Nani, Young and Valencia are supposed to supply but lack. The Spurs flyer's four-year, nine-club tour (on loan) that presaged him finally nailing down a berth at his club suggests Townsend could deal with stepping out in a United shirt. After seizing the chance to shine for England the 22-year-old, who has recently been dropped by André Villas-Boas, would bring a dazzle to Old Trafford missing from the currently moribund United cathedral.
Ander Herrera, Athletic Bilbao, contracted until 2016, buyout clause €36m (£30m)
The agonies of the United midfield and its lack of quality remains the chief gripe of fans. Herrera is a central operator who loves to flood forward and whose trump card is creativity: the prime element missing from Moyes' options in the department. Herrera was the other big failure of the summer as the Scot refused to pay the release clause. But the formula now becomes simple: swallow pride, pay the €36m, and Herrera's signing is guaranteed. Do all of this early and Moyes can start planning the second half of what is a difficult season.