United, don’t panic buy on deadline day: Neil Humphreys
After their poor opening defeat, the Red Devils need a defender quickly, before they are ripped off again
As the transfer window prepares to close, there's always a familiar and intoxicating drinking game to play with Manchester United.
If the Red Devils confirm, via another dodgy start to the season, that they are a lopsided squad in dire need of a clear plan, drink a shot.
If the club get linked with every leading man on the market but sign almost no one, drink another shot.
If United vice-chairman Ed Woodward treats every transfer negotiation like a constipated rabbit caught in the headlights, reach for a shot.
If club legends insist that beloved old boy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is beyond reproach and those incompetent buffoons in the boardroom are to blame then, well, you know what to do.
And, finally, when Groundhog Day arrives at Old Trafford and the hysterical Red Devils inevitably pay twice as much for half a player, take a final shot and collapse like David de Gea at his near post.
United are nothing if not predictable. And they are nothing like English Premier League title contenders either.
Their second game, a tricky visit to Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow, already feels like a work appraisal for those on both sides of the white line.
Solskjaer retains a seemingly inexhaustible credit line with United old boys, such as Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand, stressing again that the dithering men upstairs are to blame for the Crystal Palace loss and the lucky win against Luton Town in the League Cup.
Clearly, the poor, hamstrung Norwegian must be allowed to sign a centre-back before the transfer window closes on Oct 5.
Eric Bailly put in an assured performance alongside Harry Maguire against Luton and the Ivorian should retain his place at Brighton, which only underlines United's drop in standards.
Europe's finest defenders were once targeted. Now a half-decent effort against Championship opposition earns an endorsement from Solskjaer.
But United's partnerships in central defence, once the cornerstone of every Old Trafford dynasty, remains flimsy. Victor Lindelof was involved in all three of Palace's goals last weekend, making Bailly the only other viable option.
Even the endless goodwill lavished upon Solskjaer must surely dissipate if more soft goals are conceded against Brighton (only a magnificent save from Dean Henderson ensured a clean sheet against Luton).
Until now, Solskjaer has been wrapped in the security blanket of United's old boy network.
It was extraordinary watching Patrice Evra's 20-minute attack on United's failings in the transfer market, blaming the Palace defeat on shadowy executives messing up potential deals.
Did Evra not take a cursory glance at the line-ups in the United-Palace game? With the possible exception of Wilfried Zaha, no other footballer among Roy Hodgson's honest toilers gets close to usurping anyone in a United jersey.
Yes, it's only one league game - a constant refrain among Solskjaer's loyalists - and match fitness remains a work in progress.
But patience may wear thin rapidly if a second poor showing tomorrow is followed by another characteristically inept display in the transfer market.
As usual, United were linked with every name on the conveyor belt of restless talents, including Jadon Sancho, Dayot Upamecano, Gareth Bale, Sergio Reguilon and Alex Telles, but only Donny van de Beek signed.
While other clubs dropped the deadwood, the Red Devils still look creaky and bloated. They can't even make a firm decision on Jesse Lingard.
They continue to plod along with a benign manager, waiting, inevitably, to get ripped off on deadline day with a last-minute, panic buy.
So the Brighton trip should be seen as something more than a chance to improve fitness. It's a final yardstick for where the Red Devils really are.
Marcus Rashford appeared brittle against Palace and Odion Ighalo is hardly an adequate replacement.
Juan Mata offered rare, creative guile against Luton, but the 32-year-old Spaniard isn't considered a regular starter and Paul Pogba's exasperating inconsistency was captured with a viral clip of his mistakes against Palace.
Rather like Anthony Martial, United can feel as if they are in eternal transition, forever promising to fulfil their potential without ever really getting there.
Either Solskjaer gets it right at Brighton or he goes shopping.