Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has revealed that he's "genuinely scared" that his old team will become Premier League also-rans if major personnel changes aren't made immediately.
Scholes said he fears United could experience a slump in fortunes similar to Liverpool in the 1990s if five experienced players aren't signed in a column written for The Independent.
"Let us be clear about one thing. I am sick of having to criticise the club to which I gave my life as a footballer."
"After the defeat to Swansea City, and no player signed since the end of June, I feel it is time for major change," he wrote.
"What do United need? Five players. Not five players with potential. Five experienced players... for now. Five proper players who can hit the ground running and turn around a situation that looks desperate."
Scholes has nominated Real Madrid quartet Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Raphael Varane and Angel Di Maria in his list of additions that he thinks need to be brought to Old Trafford, along with World Cup winner Mats Hummels from Dortmund.
"It would be one very big cheque for Real Madrid, given that four of them would come from that club," he said. "It would be hard to land them all. But that is the level that United need at this stage of the transfer window.
"Looking at those five players, the obvious issue with Alonso for United fans would be his past with Liverpool. So what? He has that quality United lack.
"He is not the quickest but then he never was. Neither is Andrea Pirlo but he can play a bit. Alonso has a superb range of passing. He can shoot too. I noticed he signed a contract extension in January but, with [Toni] Kroos as well as Luka Modric at his club, perhaps now would be the time he would consider leaving."
With less than two weeks left to go in the transfer window, Scholes said that was alarmed that none of the world class talent that Manchester United had been pursuing -- negotiations he was privy to during his stint in the coaches box alongside caretaker manager Ryan Giggs -- had actually been purchased by the club.
He said: "In the few weeks at the end of last season when I was part of Ryan Giggs' coaching team at Manchester United, I was asked my opinion on whether the club should sign Cesc Fabregas or Toni Kroos this summer. I thought there was only one response to that difficult choice between two great players. I said United should sign them both.
"I do not know what happened to the Kroos and Fabregas deals over the summer. The club were originally working on both of them. Perhaps the deal could not be done in the end. Perhaps Louis van Gaal did not fancy either of them. Either way, the situation now, with 11 days of the transfer window left, has become ever more desperate for my former club. They have to sign some quality players."
The main reason these quality players are needed, Scholes argued, is the lack of progress some of United's younger players have made.
"I suppose I should have realised that the very fact I was still playing for United at 38 years old was a sign that there was not enough pressure on us senior players from those coming into the side," he said. "It was the same last season with Ryan. At times last season he was the best player on the pitch, at the age of 40."
"My concern, as ever, is about the long-term fitness of Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. In the 3-5-2 system, Jones and Smalling never looked solid. Jones is another one of those for whom the question of "potential" comes up. How long are we going to talk about his potential before he becomes the real deal? He is 22 now and has been a United player for three years. I don't feel that he senses danger in the way that a centre-half should do. I would prefer him to play at right-back, or in midfield."
Scholes was also keen to stress that he was not trying to kick his former club while it was down, but rather draw attention to the perilous state that it was in, adding: "Let us be clear about one thing. I am sick of having to criticise the club to which I gave my life as a footballer. But this is a United team that lost seven league games at Old Trafford last season and began on Saturday by losing at home to Swansea. United need to arrest their decline."