Manchester United are not having their finest campaign but have begun to find their feet under David Moyes in recent weeks, and the January transfer window offers the next opportunity for the Scot to continue moulding the team in his own image.
With the contracts of experienced first-team players Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra expiring at the end of the campaign, per Transfermarkt, it is a process that must continue apace.
A place in the Champions League is worth big money and will be in the thinking of the club management, with recent form having placed the Red Devils within touching distance of the top four with half the season still to play.
So, which players should the club target in January?
Alex Sandro (Porto)
A left-back is clearly needed at the club, with Evra unlikely to see his current deal renewed, Fabio out of favour and Alex Buttner linked with a January move away from Old Trafford, per the Express' Colin Harvey.
A bundle of energy, 22-year-old Alex Sandro will need time to adapt to the physicality of the English game, and the six-month overlap before Evra is set to move on could be ideal.
In the current age of attacking full-backs, the effervescent Brazilian could be a real coup to play on the opposite side to countryman Rafael. If the pair can work well in tandem, United could have a real threat from deep on the flanks.
Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Per the Daily Mail's Rob Shepherd, the Old Trafford club are close to coming to an agreement to sign £30 million target Koke from Atletico Madrid—a figure that would meet his contractual release clause.
The biggest difficulty in securing the midfielder's signature would be convincing the Spain international to depart Spain, with Diego Simeone's side currently challenging for the La Liga title.
A champion of Europe with the Spain Under-21 side in the summer, Koke has proved to be a wonderfully adaptable player in a number of midfield roles for both club and country.
Labelled as the "new Xavi" by Eurosport, Koke's excellent ability to recycle possession in tight situations has drawn attention from many quarters, but United have long been said to be near the head of the queue.
If the young star is willing to move and join former team-mate David de Gea, it could be the transfer that makes United a true title contender once more.
Ravel Morrison (West Ham)
A former United player, Morrison left Old Trafford to join the Hammers in 2012 after a series of misdemeanours saw him lose the confidence of Red Devils boss at the time, Sir Alex Ferguson.
United, though, stuck by the player for a long time despite the mounting problems, with his talent clear for all to see. Now excelling at West Ham, Metro's Danny Griffiths reports that he could be set for a January return to the north-west.
The Telegraph's Jason Burt also reports that Morrison could be on his way out at Upton Park, with a clause in the player's contract meaning that a bid of £10 million would require the player's salary to be raised to £60,000 per week.
There is no doubt that signing the impulsive young midfielder would be a risk. However, it is not very often that a top young English talent can be secured for just £10 million in the current market.
The direct running and skill of Morrison has unsettled many Premier League defenders this season, and England manager Roy Hodgson has even offered him hope ahead of next summer's World Cup, per the Evening Standard's Tom Dutton.
Given that Morrison would also count as a homegrown player for continental competition, he holds extra attraction to United and could add impetus to the club's charge to earn a Champions League ahead of next season.
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