The opening of a transfer window instills new optimism among supporters as they fantasize about the possibilities that may present themselves in the weeks to come.
Manchester United fans are among those harboring some of the craziest thoughts in January, an understandable byproduct of a summer window that saw them sign Tom Heaton, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho before completing the seismic return of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet their eventful start to the season has also made it very clear that winning the transfer window does not guarantee similar results on the pitch.
United are in a special position as the club’s problems extend far beyond the staff available to Ralf rangnick on the pitch, but despite this there is still a clear need for investment, especially in the midfield.
But elsewhere on the squad the need to spend isn’t so obvious, and while plenty of fans will want some shiny new signings this summer, the focus needs to be on extracting the best from an already star-studded squad. .
As such, there is a need to appreciate the untapped potential already available for Rangnick, and this week could see two important steps taken to strengthen the team in the long run.
The interim manager has already built his own confidence in young talent, both in principle and in practice, since taking over at Old Trafford, and by the end of the season he could have two new primary teams ready to integrate or pass on to their permanent replacement.
Teden Mengi and Ethan Laird Both are set to complete Championship loans as early as this week, with two starlets in need of playing time but could each have a senior team role to play if they impress by the end of the season.
Last summer, United explored the possibility of signing two center-backs to bolster their defensive options, settling instead with correct Varane, while there was also a well-documented interest in a new attacking full-back.
Both positions could be considered again in the next two transfer windows, but United could hope the two academy graduates can allay those fears if they manage to continue their upward trajectory in the league.
Mengi, 19, previously played for United first team under Rangnick and also trained for the England senior team this season. The hope is that he can shine in Birmingham after an encouraging stint at Derby a year ago.
His close friend Laird, 20, has already put in a handful of very impressive performances for Swansea this campaign, but is now set for a tougher challenge with league leaders Bournemouth, who demand promotion by the end .
If successful, the Cherries should have the chance to keep Laird at the club for a potential first season back in the Premier League, although with so much mitigation it’s far too early to start thinking this far.
Ultimately, the pair will both dream of playing for United next season and there’s a lot of work to be done if either of them is to make that a reality.
But with openings in the senior squad and a manager who believes in the talent of young people, there is a bright carrot hanging off the end of the stick, if they can reach it.