After a visit to his physio's room, Sir Alex Ferguson can name a pretty useful team at the moment. Add a keeper and a centre-back and, while perhaps not being a championship winning side, this nicely attacking line-up would still hold its own in the top four: Rafael, Vidic, Fabio; Fletcher, Anderson, Cleverley; Owen, Berbatov, Hernandez.
The bad news for the Manchester United manager is, however, with the exception of Berbatov, all are out for some time. The unfortunate Darren Fletcher is certain to miss the rest of the season. Brought low by debilitating illness, the loss of his purposeful thrust is hugely significant. Whatever the reservations of those among the United crowd who don't quite get his point, the fact is, the Reds win more games with the Scotland skipper in the team than without him. At his best - as in 2009 when his unquenchable energy helped drive his team to the Champions League final - Fletcher was invaluable, a certain starter. And for a squad not exactly brim-full of energy in its midfield, his lengthy loss is unfortunate, to say the least.
However, it was the sorry sight of Nemanja Vidic being stretchered off the pitch at Basel that will most alarm the United faithful. Seeing him depart for a minimum of nine months was the moment certainty was removed: without the Serbian the case for the defence immediately diminishes; anyone who saw the display he gave at the Etihad Stadium last season will acknowledge it was his performances as much as any that helped a not always convincing United side win the title.
The question thus facing Ferguson is what does he do now? Without Vidic, without Fletcher, with Hernandez compromised and Cleverley absent until at least February, he has been shorn of the more persuasive elements of his squad, the men with whom he would have started every big game for the rest of the season. He has stated publicly that he is reluctant to venture into the January transfer market, citing a lack of value, a lack of top performers and a lack, with a youth team full of potential, of real need.
And this year, the manager is even more restricted in his room for winter window manoeuvre given that he can no longer offer Champions League football. The opportunity for a run-out on a Thursday night in front of Stan Collymore's punditry is not an invitation to relish.
One thing we can be certain of, however, is that Ferguson will not be adding Frank Lampard to his roster. Twitter was alive with wild rumours yesterday doing the mathematical equivalent of putting two and two together and discovering the God particle. Sure, Lampard may be temporarily disaffected at Chelsea. Sure he may the most visible casualty of Andres Villas-Boas's requirement to freshen his squad. Sure, his experience, plus the motivation to prove the Portuguese wrong, would make him a valuable addition in an area where United lack strength.
But it isn't going to happen.
Firstly, Lampard has a life and a partner in London he would be reluctant to leave. His other half works in television and, as has been demonstrated at the BBC, those who work in television have a serious reluctance to move from London to Manchester. Secondly, as he showed with his celebration after scoring the winner against City on Monday, he is of a mind to fight for his place rather than cut and run. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, given that they are now properly back in the title race, Chelsea are not going to sell a player of his significance to a rival. So that one is a non-starter.
There are others around - Jack Rodwell, Luca Modric and Cheick Tiote - who could more than do a job at Old Trafford. But Rodwell's injury record would make Ferguson reluctant to spend the substantial sum required to prise him from Everton; Spurs don't need to sell Modric and anyway, he wants to go to Chelsea; while there is little point buying a player like Tiote who would be immediately unavailable due to African Cup of Nations duty. African United fans forever ask what Ferguson has against players from their continent. The answer is clear every other January.
Even the most cursory scan like this indicates why even the grandest of managers prefer to do their business in August. My suspicion is, whatever we on the touchline and in the press box may say about Ferguson's urgent need to get busy after Christmas, he will only be pressed into action in pursuit of the spectacular. In 25 years at United, he has bought four players in January: Andy Cole, Louis Saha, Vidic and Patrice Evra. It is an astonishing purchasing record he will not want to sully. Which is why, it seems to me, the Glazers' cheque book is most likely to remain closed this winter. If he heard that Andres Iniesta was available, mind...