It is tempting to determine the pivotal moment in the recent history of Manchester United as the night when Uli Hoeness told Sir Alex Ferguson a white lie about his sausage factory.
The president of Bayern Munich was in December 2012 in New York to persuade Pep Guardiola, then sabbatical and living in the city, to become the next coach of the Bundesliga giants.
So Hoeness was alarmed to meet Sir Alex that evening in a restaurant and told the Scot that he was doing a sausage-related business trip, which was partly true.
Manchester United tried it and failed to attract Pep Guardiola who now manages City rivals
That same week, Sir Alex, when the United Manager, had also dined with Guardiola in New York and asked him to call if he had offers from other teams. Within a few weeks Bayern announced that Guardiola would be their new manager from the summer of 2013 and the moment was over.
By the time Guardiola was theoretically available again, United was again behind the curve. He announced that he would leave Bayern in December 2015, just as United's doubts about Louis van Gaal had crystallized.
United wanted to chase Guardiola, but soon found out that he had signed for City, with Der Spiegel's Football Leaks revelations last week claiming he had committed to City on October 10, 2015.
But even if Guardiola had arrived at Old Trafford in 2013 or 2013, would that have reversed the five-year drop in United since the title win in 2013? Maybe it was a style improvement, but the content of the club he would encounter would have been a bit too short for the infrastructure he found in 2016 in City.
Despite the controversy about City's actions, as revealed by Football Leaks, nobody doubts that they run an efficient football project. Head of government Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain are universally respected.
Agents who were dealing with both clubs this summer reported that City's strategy and presentations about why they wanted to draw a player and how it would appear that he would fit into the team were much better than United's. At Old Trafford there are several employees with titles that suggest that they will make an important contribution to the transfer strategy, all of which have been appointed to different managers.
So Jim Lawlor, appointed by Sir Alex, is chief scout. Head of Global Scouting is Marcel Bout, appointed by Van Gaal. Head of Development is John Murtough, appointed by David Moyes. It is clear that Jose Mourinho has a voice at signing sessions and that everyone would need the final approval of Executive Vice President Ed Woodward. Add to this the fact that United's wish to dominate the world of social media seems to be a distracting obsession.
United's Head of Global Scouting Marcel Bout (left) was named by the old boss Louis van Gaal
The pitch to sign Paul Pogba included an analysis showing how much more interactions he had generated on social media when he was linked with United instead of Real Madrid. That may be the way of the modern football world, but it would be an abomination to Sir Alex's United.
There is no intrinsic problem with having a variety of voices that contribute to an area that is as important as acquisitions. Liverpool has a transfer committee that has worked very well. And at City, Guardiola, Soriano and Begiristain work together.
Yet, crucially, those three share a vision inspired by Barcelona, for whom they all worked before, and Johan Cruyff, for whom two were playing. United has a multitude of voices with fundamentally different ideas about how the game should be played.
& # 39; The recruitment plan has been everywhere & # 39 ;, said Gary Neville last month. & # 39; And it was controlled by every manager at the time. And each manager has a different philosophy and values, so you have three or four different sets of players from three or four different managers.
& # 39; If you have a central philosophy and value, this means that you always bring players who fit this profile. Then the coaches always fit around it, and you would probably be fine. & # 39;
United want to change. A sports director is expected to determine the stylistic and tactical pattern for the club. Paul Mitchell, who worked intriguingly well with Mauricio Pochettino in Tottenham and is now with RB Leipzig, is one of the front runners. However, Mourinho is supposed to have resisted the change that is now being made, because it would only add a new voice to the choir of transfer advice.
& # 39; It would create confusion to do it now, because the last thing you want to do is undermine Jose by hiring a sports director, & # 39; said Neville. & # 39; Changing your structure halfway through a season is always problematic. Usually there is a certain despair for teams that change managers halfway through a season. They try to stay up. & # 39;
Former United captain Gary Neville described the recruitment of the club as & # 39; all over the place & # 39;
It is not just a transfer strategy that seems uncoordinated. The pendulum movement from Ferguson to Moyes (which at that time seemed more logical, but turned out to be related to keeping a car in a reverse gear) and then from Van Gaal to Mourinho (which may have worked in Barcelona in 1997-2000, but since then radically differ from each other) indicates the lack of a coherent football strategy.
That seems to have been Mourinho's complaint when he was denied a middle ground this summer, although he had barely helped his business by contracting Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof for a combined £ 61 million just to settle for the idea that Jerome Boateng or Harry Maguire the answer.
Mourinho constantly emphasizes the reality of where United is now, in contrast to their past. So in the run-up to Sunday's game, he rejected the idea that the club is currently title candidates. & # 39; If you are outside the top four, it is not logical to talk about the title, & # 39; he said. & # 39; By the end of December when we are within the top four and in contact with the first and second, let's say, we & # 39; Yes & # 39; say. But at the moment we are trying and fighting very hard to get the points that give us the chance to get into the top four. & # 39;
He emphatically states that this is still a reconstruction job.
& # 39; I got a situation in my first season from players like Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick – phenomenal players, probably some of the most important in the last years at the club – at the end [of their career]. And then get a player like Ibra [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] to help us have a certain strength to fight for something very important to us, which was clear to go back to the Champions League level. It was hard work with people like Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, for example because, because these talented players come to the level they are, a process is.
Om To transform talent into professional players, stability, performance, a hard work process. So it's rebuilding, yes. & # 39;
Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward, pictured (left) with David Gill, signs all signing sessions
You could argue with a net spending of £ 315 million since his arrival, you would expect you to be in line. But without naming City, Mourinho returned to a familiar theme – confirmed by the evidence of Football Leaks – that his rivals have the capacity to spend unlimited amounts.
& # 39; If I need a full-back and if I buy four, it's easier. So if I need a full backup because I'm not happy with Shaw's level, it's easiest to buy four. Some clubs can buy four. We did not buy a left-back for three consecutive years, we wished and worked for Shaw to stay that way, but during that process we played [Matteo] Darmian, we played Ashley Young, we played Marcus Rojo.
& # 39; We have not bought four. There is a difference. To buy four you only need good scouting and money. To let players take more time. & # 39;
Of course, this ignores the fact that United overcrowded City for Alexis Sanchez last September and when they did (now even less) cock-a-hoop.
Ironically, on Wednesday, Mourinho built his best performance so far in the 2-1 victory at Juventus, possibly the best in United since Sir Alex retired.
Although it seems clear that United six years after Hoeness's undercover worst-factory trip, United still has not mastered how to navigate in the post-Ferguson era.
& # 39; If the work was easy, I would not be here & # 39 ;, said Mourinho this week.
& # 39; I know that jobs are not easy. Real Madrid was not easy either. We work, man. & # 39;