Many Manchester United supporters are down in the doldrums, but Harry Redknapp believes Louis van Gaal can still win the Premier League this season if he signs Gareth Bale.
The Wales forward, who used to play under Redknapp at Tottenham, scored a stunning hat-trick in Zinedine Zidane's first match in charge of Real Madrid against Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night.
While the Welshman was thrilling the crowd at the Bernabeu, 900 miles away in Manchester Van Gaal's team were serving up their latest drab offering - this time against League One side Sheffield United in the FA Cup.
For the 10th successive home game, United failed to score by half-time. It looked like they were heading for an eighth goalless stalemate of the season but luckily for Van Gaal, Memphis Depay was tripped in the box in injury time and Wayne Rooney fired home from the penalty spot.
While Sheffield United put on an organised and disciplined rearguard action, it must not be forgotten that they conceded three goals against Peterborough last weekend and have been beaten by Bury, Colchester and Crewe this season.
United fans are becoming tired of the boring, predictable football on show at Old Trafford this season. Redknapp believes Bale can provide them with the attacking flair and penetration they so desperately need.
"Gareth Bale is in the top four or five players in the world," Redknapp told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.
"He is an amazing talent. If Manchester United took him they could come close to winning the title this year. He can make that much difference.
"Bale is a match-winner. He scores goals and he can make goals. He could go and get them 16 goals or 17 goals from now until the end of the season if he went on a run and he could turn the club around. He would be an incredible signing."
United tried to buy Bale, who has scored 12 league goals for Madrid this season, just before he left for the Spanish capital and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would not be able to resist the temptation to bid for the Welshman again if he intimated he wanted to return to England.
The spirits of the United fans certainly need lifting. They booed their team off at half-time and ironically cheered when Matteo Darmian registered United's first shot on target in the 69th minute.
Manchester United: Players linked with transfers
Manchester United: Players linked with transfers
1/23 Ahmed Musa
Leicester City have been sniffing around the CSKA Moscow striker but United may hijack the deal, given their desperate need for pace and movement up front.
2/23 Franco Vazquez
The Italian international would offer a dynamic presence in attacking midfield, having impressed during his time at Palermo.
3/23 IN: Neymar (Barcelona)
A long-term target of vice-chairman Ed Woodward but a fanciful one, who is said to want to move to a club where he will be the top dog. However, the Brazilian is negotiating a new deal at the Nou Camp and will use any reported interest as leverage in the contract talks.
4/23 Renato Sanches (Benfica)
Only 18-years-old but highly rated by the Portuguese club. United's scouts have watched the teenage midfielder multiple times in recent weeks and talks are already said to have taken place. Could cost £30m.
5/23 Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
After Ashley Young's groin surgery United are facing a crisis at the back. Ryan Bertrand is said to be a target but when Luke Shaw returns will he really want to sit on the bench?
2015 Getty Images
6/23 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all chasing the Bayern Munich striker, who has grown restless in Germany. His fee would be around £70m in the summer.
7/23 Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The stand-out player of 2014/15 has stunk out 2015/16 and suffered a torrid few months at Stamford Bridge. A fresh start may be in order and his movement would be very welcome in United's static frontline.
8/23 Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
A long-term target, no doubt, but January may be a bit too soon. The Welshman’s troubles in Spain have eased slightly this term but he still plays second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu. At Old Trafford, he would take centre stage. The question is whether Bale, and Real president Florentino Perez, would be ready to call quits on record-breaking move to the Spanish giants.
9/23 Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had to tell Ed Woodward to stop emailing him earlier this year, so persistent were Manchester United in their chase of Muller. The roving forward would be a perfect fit at Old Trafford but any move would be a major coup.
10/23 Edinson Cavani (PSG)
United are in desperate need of some attacking reinforcements, and the Uruguayan would surely be able to aid them in their quest for goals and attacking flair. He would cost a hefty fee but always seems to be unhappy at the French club.
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11/23 Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht)
The young Belgian midfielder, 18, is widely courted due to his versatility throughout the midfield. He would add genuine energy to United’s engine room, but would likely be one for the future with Louis van Gaal's squad currently brimming with central midfielders.
12/23 Breel Embolo (Basel)
The Swiss forward is still raw but direct in his play and would help bolster United’s meagre attacking options. Still only 18, it is possible that he and Anthony Martial could form a partnership which would provide United fans with years of entertainment.
13/23 Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)
Behind both Thiago Silva and David Luiz in the PSG pecking order, the Brazilian is frustrated with a lack of opportunites at the Parc des Princes. He's also attracted the interest of Chelsea.
14/23 Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan)
After making his debut in goal for Milan at the tender age of 16, clubs have been keen to see whether they can tie up a deal for the goalkeeper while he is still young. If United were to secure his signing, he could act as an excellent understudy (and potential future replacement) to David de Gea. However, his agent Mino Raiola has already said he is worth £150m.
15/23 Oumar Niasse
The Lokomotiv Moscow striker was voted the Russian Premier League’s player of 2015 and is being monitored by a host of Premier League clubs.
16/23 Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
A more realistic target perhaps but the Algerian playmaker would still come at a cost. He has been, alongside Leicester City teammate Jamie Vardy, the Premier League’s stand-out performer this season. The question is whether he could maintain such form consistently and on a bigger stage. The Foxes meanwhile have no interest in selling.
17/23 Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Consistent goals at Everton have seen the Belgium international linked with a host of clubs, including Manchester United. It's claimed Everton would want £65m in order to sell.
18/23 Sadio Mane (Southampton)
When United sounded out a move for the Senegalese forward at the end of the last transfer window, Southampton valued him between £35-40m. There is no suggestion that Mane’s pricetag has changed but then again, this is the United that paid a potential £58m for the relatively unproven Anthony Martial. That didn’t work out so terribly…
19/23 Felipe Anderson (Lazio)
The 22-year-old Brazilian winger is regarded as one of the best young talents in Europe, despite a difficult start to the season, and has regularly been linked with a move to United. Ed Woodward may have to beat competition from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain if he is to take Anderson off Lazio’s hands.
20/23 James Rodriguez (midfield)
Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez faces an uncertain future after new head coach Zinedine Zidane left him out of the first-team named in his opening match in charge of the club. With Isco preferred in a three-man midfield, Rodriguez could decide that he needs to leave the club in order to secure first-team football.
21/23 Ayoze Perez (Newcastle United)
A lack of pace in attack has often been cited as one of the main problems for Louis van Gaal’s side. Perez would solve that, as well as providing a useful option off the bench.
22/23 Matteo Darmian (defender)
The 26-year-old Italian made a bright start to his Old Trafford career but has since gone off the boil. At times, he's struggled to get into Louis van Gaal's side, with Ashley Young preferred as a makeshift right-back. A move back to Serie A could be on the cards.
2015 Manchester United FC
23/23 Marcos Rojo (defender)
The Argentinian has struggled with injuries since joining 18 months ago and was exiled for a short time after missing his flight for the club's pre-season tour. United could be ready to cut their losses on the £16million defender this January.
There were also boos for Marouane Fellaini when he came off and unlike in recent weeks, only a handful of United fans waited around to get Van Gaal's autograph outside Old Trafford after the match.
The United manager conceded his team's performance was not good enough, but stressed that making it through to the fourth round was the most important thing.
And Marouane Fellaini agreed with his manager's assessment.
"Always in the Premier League and against lower league teams, the games are tough," the United midfielder told MUTV.
"There are often surprises, like you can see in some other games, but we are in the next round and we are happy.
"The FA Cup is a big competition in England and we went to the quarter-final last season. We want to do better this season and we have the quality and the players, so I hope we can do that."
United received another blow on Saturday with the news that Bastian Schweinsteiger will miss Tuesday's game against Newcastle because of an injury he suffered at the end of the third-round tie.
"It shall be difficult of course (for Schweinsteiger to face Newcastle)," the United manager said
"I think he has a knee problem."
Nigel Adkins was happy with his team's efforts, and the support they received from the 8,500 fans who had crossed the Pennines for the match.
But the Sheffield United boss wants his players to regain their focus quickly as they attempt to push for the League One play-offs.
"I think we need to take the positives from this," he said.
"It was a good effort. It was a shame we didn't see it out and get a replay at Bramall Lane, but we have to move on and think about Tuesday's game at Wigan."
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