The Glazer family will give David Moyes substantial transfer funds in January if the Manchester United manager identifies targets to bolster his underperforming squad. United's American owners are aware of the difficulties of recruiting players -during the winter transfer window but have made it clear to Moyes that he will be backed if he finds the right players.
The failure to recruit key targets during the summer, which can be partially attributed to Moyes not starting his new job until the end of his Everton contract on June 30, has contributed to United making their worst start to a season for 24 years. As a result, the previously unthinkable prospect of the club missing out on Champions League qualification has become a potential nightmare scenario.
Such an outcome, triggered by the champions finishing outside the top four for the first time since the 1990-91 campaign, would see United miss out on at least pounds 30 million in Champions League prize money next season. It would also have the knock-on effect of making it harder to attract leading players to Old Trafford in the summer.
While the Glazers and United's hierarchy in England remain comfortable with the club's immediate prospects and the ability of Moyes and his players to overcome their dismal start to the season, there is also an acceptance at Old Trafford that the squad left behind by Sir Alex Ferguson is badly in need of new blood.
Moyes has now been told that funds will be in place in January if he wants to make renewed moves for Everton defender Leighton Baines and Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera, as well as testing FC Porto's determination to hang on to France defender Eliaquim Mangala.
Moves for Baines and Herrera proved unsuccessful in the summer, with ambitious efforts to sign Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale also coming to nothing. But with January still three months away, there is a belief at Old Trafford that any moves planned for the window are more likely to be executed successfully with the benefit of extra time spent on preparation and research.
United scouts monitored Herrera's substitute appearance last week for Bilbao against Espanyol and there are more plans to watch the 24-year-old, who has a pounds 30.5 million release clause in his contract with the Basque club. Moving for all three players in January may present new problems and United are wary of entering the mid-season transfer window because of inflated valuations and some targets being cup-tied in Europe.
But having identified the need for at least two central mid-fielders and a new left-back within days of arriving at Old Trafford, Moyes admitted last week that only adding the Belgian -midfielder Marouane Fellaini had left him short of "one or two players to go straight in the team".
The Scot, who was preparing to fly with his squad to Ukraine today for tomorrow's Champions League match with Shakhtar Donetsk, claimed at the weekend that United were some distance away from challenging the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona. "To win the Champions League, you have to have five or six world-class players," Moyes said.
"If you look at Bayern Munich, they have five or six nearly world-class players. Look at Barcelona, who had [that] in the past and Real Madrid have maybe got it now. That's the level you have to get at to win it. We've not got that yet, but what we have got is experience and several players who are in that category or close to it. But the job when I took over was always going to be that we would have to make changes and improve as we went along," Three defeats in United's past four league games, against Liverpool, Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion, have confirmed Moyes's fears about the strength of his squad.
With Rio Ferdinand enduring an alarming loss of form, an issue perhaps exacerbated by the 34-year-old's heavy workload of seven appearances so far this season, Moyes is ready to intensify the monitoring of Mangala, who has also attracted interest from Arsenal and Manchester City.
Moyes rates England international Phil Jones highly and believes he is capable of justifying the faith shown in him by Ferguson by establishing himself as Nemanja Vidic's regular centre-back partner. Jones may yet be named alongside Vidic against Shakhtar tomorrow, with Ferdinand on the bench following his unimpressive performances in the defeats by City and West Bromwich during which United conceded six goals.
Moyes remains confident he can kick-start United's season and banish any nascent fears that the club may fail to finish in the top four. However, with United planning their budget each year around Champions League qualification and progress to at least the knockout stages, the cost of missing out this season cannot be overestimated.
When United were eliminated at the group stage during the 2011-12 campaign, it cost the club about pounds 20 million in prize money, television revenues and gate receipts. The club were able to withstand that shock, but missing out completely on Europe's premier competition would be -damaging to both United's finances and reputation.