Why Manchester United Are In Danger Of Becoming The New Liverpool And Are Miles Behind Manchester City

Manchester United won a football match. They scored at home. They served up joy.

It is not nearly enough. It won't be enough if they win every game until the end of the season. Because Manchester United have fallen behind.

Just as factors combined to knock Liverpool off their perch in the 1990s, so United have been derailed three decades later. United fans can only hope by not so far, and with not such a long return journey ahead.

And while Liverpool's slide cleared a domestic path for United, Arsenal and Chelsea, United's drop off will profit most obviously those noisy neighbours in blue across the city. Suffice to say they've waited a long time to revel in the sunshee-iiiiiiiine that may be ahead.

City deserve plaudits for the way the club has been run in recent years. Yes, they have been indulged by staggering wealth, but oh how they have spent it. They are now a global force with some of the best facilities in the world, who will soon be managed by the coveted one.

City already have a nucleus of world-class players and the means to attract more. Pep Guardiola's overarching vision is the one remaining masterstroke to paint. If you were betting on the next Manchester club to win the Champions League, they're only one punt worth taking right now.

Neymar to United? You'd fancy Neymar to City. Ronaldo coming home to United? Not to miss out on the Champions League he won't be.

While City have laid a platform for dynasty building, United are left to ponder how quickly it became the case that the future looks better through blue-tinted glasses than red ones.

A new reality has dawned at Old Trafford. United find themselves without a discernible identity on the pitch or off it. A plan is badly needed in both areas, but there's no clear sign when it will arrive or whether it will be nearly enough.

Off the pitch United's must invest quickly, heavily and intelligently to match City's stunning £200 million academy complex that has risen from the wastelands just a few miles away. The wheels are in motion, but they can't spin quickly enough.

There was a time when every boy with a gift would have been steered rightly towards red and not blue. That time has gone.

To get it back United must go brick-to-brick with what City have built, and then go higher. If they do not, the next Busby Babes or Class of 92 will not be forthcoming in red, but in blue instead.

Almost every week there's new deal announced at United for an "official noodle partner" or the "official leisure headwear partner", so how hard could it be to pull in more cash for a project that plays to marketing gold - investment in the future?

On the pitch, United need a summer transfer window that's focused on delivering box-fresh world-class talent. They already have their compliment of players for the future, but to take this team to title contenders, or even top-four certainties, requires more finished products to mesh with the projects.

Dynamism in central midfield is urgently needed. As every club once courted a player in mould of Patrick Vieira, so Paul Pogba is now the prototype. How remiss of United to let him go in the first place. What bitter irony it would be should City swoop for his services when Guardiola comes to power.

United won't get Pogba back, but they can get somebody of his ilk. They need a striker too - somebody to play off Anthony Martial and form a partnership with Wayne Rooney. And they need a high-class lock picker to challenge Juan Mata and Ander Herrera for creative duties.

They need a powerful central defender to play alongside Chris Smalling. And they need a ball player in front of him to succeed Michael Carrick.

But before any kind of shopping list is drawn up, United need to decide on the manager pushing the trolley in the summer. If it's Louis van Gaal for next season, then announce it now and be done with the speculation. If it's not, his successor should be appointed as soon as possible. What sense in waiting?

Whoever is in charge needs to be making summer decisions now and putting them into motion. To underpin all of this should be a philosophy for aggressive, front-foot football that stays true to the history of United and all the club stands for.

My final ask would be clarity on Ryan Giggs' role. If he's being readied for the big job, then why can't United say as much? What good is there in letting things roll along with no clear sense of what's coming next?

My message for United is simple. In a world where title contenders and European challengers Bayern Munich and Manchester City have already announced their new managers for next season, doesn't it make sense for United to take a proactive stance and lay the foundations for 2016-17 as early as possible?

Announce the 2016-17 manager, announce academy investment, announce summer transfer objectives, announce the playing philosophy, announce the future for Giggs. And then get to work, because from where we're standing there's still a huge amount left to do.