This is the most exciting time of the year.
Well, for football fans it is anyway.
For most clubs in England it is the sporting equivalent of feeding time at the Zoo.
As we enter the New Year we welcome a period of total and utter chaos in the football calendar.
That is because the January transfer window is open for business.
During the Premier League era there are three dates that have become synonymous with supporters across the country.
Inevitably the first is the return of league action in August.
The second is the release of the annual instalment of FIFA in September.
And the third, well the third sends the football world into a complete frenzy.
For the uninitiated, the transfer window is a period of time in which players can move between clubs.
It allows teams staring into the league’s abyss to try and salvage their season while enabling the clubs chasing title glory to tighten their grip on that precious trophy.
It is a time when our newspapers are filled with scurrilous rumours as agents attempt to manoeuvre their prized assets in order to fill their wallets.
Designed to prevent wealthier sides from buying the title in the last few weeks of the season it has since drawn plenty of criticism from managers and pundits alike.
They argue it encourages a ‘fire-sale mentality’ as prices for players rocket and panic buying ensues.
In the modern context it is an opportunity for clubs to correct the shortfalls made in the summer, something that for a number of seasons has not been associated with the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United.
But what does January hold for these two clubs?
Well for Manchester United it will allow manager David Moyes and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodard to rectify their embarrassing struggles during the summer.
After missing out on top targets Thiago and Ander Herrera the priority is to sign a creative midfielder and one that can score goals.
SECOND TIME LUCKY? United could make fresh Herrera swoop (Image courtesy of henrikalexandersen, with thanks)
Now that United have finally spluttered into gear after stalling in the early weeks an extra 10 goals from midfield would aid Moyes’ minimum requirement of Champions League football next season.
So who could arrive?
Everton’s outstanding young talent Ross Barkley has emerged as a top transfer target and with a reported £100million kitty at his disposal the startling £50m price tag will not deter Moyes from lodging a bid.
The Scot left Everton in June and succeeded in upsetting his former employers when he bid a derisory £28m for both Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines before eventually signing the former on deadline day.
United are also reported to be interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke, but Barkley is viewed as more appealing after a string of scintillating performances in the Premier League and his eligibility to play in the Champions League.
The German star has been incessantly linked with a move to Old Trafford but United must move quickly if they are to secure his signature with Europe’s elite ready to pounce.However, should Barkley refuse to make the move up the M56 Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus is another possibility.
Reus has a £29.4m release clause in his current deal but with the acrimonious exit of Mario Gotze to rivals Bayern Munich in the summer, it is believed £40m is now the figure needed to prize him away.
The January window is notoriously tricky for agreeing deals but it is clear United are in a position to land a marquee signing after they were prepared to outbid Real Madrid for Gareth Bale in the summer.
On the other hand, United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ City are sitting pretty in second place and manager Manuel Pellegrini is not under the same pressure to dip into the club’s embarrassing riches.
PRICEY SOLUTIONS: Marco Reus could cost £40million (Image courtesy of Bundesliga via Youtube, with thanks)
Their signings are overseen by former Barcelona duo Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano so perhaps Pellegrini will have little input on the matter anyway.
But with Joe Hart restored to the starting line up after his period of ‘rest’ a goalkeeper is no longer a priority, however, defence is still a concern.
Inspirational captain Vincent Kompany has had an injury-plagued season so far and it is clear the Blues lack depth at the heart of their defence.
Once again City spent big in the summer and it is paying off but they may well revive a bid to secure the services of Real Madrid’s Pepe.
Finding a settled and effective centre-back partnership has proven difficult this term.
Joleon Lescott is unfancied by Pellergrini while Martin Demichelis has struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.
Matija Nastasic is on his way back from injury but a lot is being asked of a man who is just 20-years-old.
Pepe is an obvious solution and would finally give Kompany a partnership he can rely on.
Madrid thwarted City’s approaches in the summer but a bid of around £20m could be enough to force their hand.
There is a long way to go until May and if the two clubs are to continue rolling in the silverware it is vital that they move quickly and intelligently to avoid the January 31 panic.
Whatever the case it is guaranteed Sky Sports News will be more dramatic than a Denzel Washington epic.
Image courtesy of Everton Football Club via YouTube, with thanks