To save their season, I think Manchester United need three top-quality, high-class, proven players in January—most notably a creative and dynamic midfield player.
I know United have been linked with a few young German-based midfield players with enormous potential—notably Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund—and I can see why David Moyes would be interested.
However, I think United need players with proven Premier League credentials. Mata is hardly old and Modric proved himself with Spurs and knows his way around English football.
With Mata, the trouble is that Chelsea are not likely to sell in mid-season to one of their biggest rivals for the Premier League title. That is not something that Jose Mourinho will want to do, if indeed he allows a player like Mata go at all.
But Mata would be perfect for United, despite the fact he cannot get a look-in with Chelsea, who have so many good players in his position—the likes of Andre Schurrle and Kevin De Bruyne among them. They have five or six of the same ilk.
One of the best is Willian. I am sure Mourinho took the player just to spite Spurs, but Willian is proving to be a key acquisition for Chelsea this season. Meanwhile, Mata is struggling to hold down a place. It's a shock as he’s been the best player at Chelsea over the last two seasons, if not the best player in the entire Premier League.
If United had Mata out wide with the space to create for Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, you would see a completely different side the second half of the season.
But let’s be realistic. Moyes has little to no chance of getting the players he wants in January. It's never easy to buy exactly the right pedigree of players for a club like Manchester United in the January transfer window, but this time, they urgently need to.
I predicted before the season started that I didn’t think Manchester United would finish in the Champions League positions. If United cannot buy the right players, then at least getting Van Persie and Rooney fit and playing together would give them an outstanding chance of proving me wrong.
I could not see how that squad with only the addition of Marouane Fellaini would be good enough, even though they won the Premier League title by a landslide. My thought was that it wasn’t so much that United won it, as City threw it away. United couldn’t beat City and couldn’t beat Chelsea, and they looked vulnerable against the better teams last season.
Will United finish inside the top four?
That's why I went for United to have a real shocker. I don’t go along with what I keep hearing about how United only come to life in March, and it will be a real race for the finishing line as usual with United. They are going to be under increasingly intense pressure as the season goes on.
While it looks bad at the moment, it might get worse before it gets better. Not only is there a headache recruiting in the January window, they might also have problems in the summer if they fail to make the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
In the past, Old Trafford was the big draw for all the top players. No longer. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea are just as big. The very best might question whether it is such a good idea to go to Manchester United if they are on the slide and not playing in the Champions League next season.
They might want to wait to see what shape the club is in before they make up their minds.
A big indicator will be the decision of Rooney as whether he opts not to sign a new contract. That would tell other players about what is going on at Old Trafford—if he doesn’t commit to the club, it's an indication of his vision for the club.
Already, the signs are not good with United losing so many home games. It’s not looking good.
Ex-England manager Glenn Hoddle is a regular columnist for Bleacher Report UK. Learn more out about Glenn's exciting new website venture, Zapsportz, here.