Axel Witsel
Axel Witsel has reportedly been a long-standing target of Manchester United. Reuters

As the financial dealings of Manchester United's owners court further controversy, strong doubt remains among the club's fans as to whether Sir Alex Ferguson will be given sufficient finances to strengthen a squad that fell short in the Premier League and suffered a humiliating early exit in the Champions League last season.

Manchester United's owners, the Glazer family have continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent days. As the Americans have tried to get the club floated on the New York Stock Exchange, details of their plans have emerged leading to further ire directed their way by the club's supporters.

After previously indicating that all proceeds from the listing would go to paying off the club's massive debt, documents revealed yesterday suggest that only half the money will be used for that means, with the rest going into the pockets of the unpopular Glazers, according to the Daily Telegraph.

While Ferguson has continually insisted that the Glazers are model owners who have always supported him in the transfer market, severe questions could soon be raised about that claim.

Despite retaining their place as the richest sports team in the world, United have been unable to compete for the biggest players in recent seasons. The likes of Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and Eden Hazard have all been targeted by Ferguson in the past three summers, but all have instead headed to domestic or European rivals.

While those players would have added an intriguing attacking dimension, it is further back in the team where United's failings in the transfer market have been most apparent in recent years.

Ever since the true extent of Owen Hargreaves' knee problems became clear after a promising first season at Old Trafford, United have lacked a player capable of providing an energetic thrust in midfield. Darren Fletcher had been slowly developed into the kind of player that could offer the side that vital industry, but he too has fallen foul to an ailment that sadly may permanently derail his career.

As they came within a whisker of the Premier League title last season, United dominated many games in the Premier League with the playmaking duo of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes. Against better opposition, though, their lack of mobility was often crudely exposed. That the main alternative to those two was 38-year-old Ryan Giggs only demonstrates further the deficiencies in the United squad.

Tom Cleverley's return from an injury-ravaged season should provide a welcome boost, but the talented 22-year-old is also more of a creative presence going forward. Although he arrived as an offensive midfielder, Anderson has been converted to an industrious central player. A succession of injuries and inconsistent form, however, mean that it would take a massive slice of faith by Ferguson to rely on the talented Brazilian.

The major new recruit this summer, Shinji Kagawa has already showed in pre-season that he could add an extra element to United's play going forward, but still there appears no sign of the driving midfielder United crave.

Never was this more evident than in the match that ultimately decided the destination of the Premier League title. As he previously did in the FA Cup semi-final in 2011, Yaya Toure ran the show with his strength and lung-bursting box-to-box coverage for Manchester City against United in May's vital clash at the Etihad.

United have been regularly linked with Benfica's Axel Witsel over recent months, but no deal appears likely. The tough-tackling Belgian had a fine first season in Portugal and would provide both the box-to-box engine required as well as no little technical skill. Reports suggest, though, that a £31 million offer would be needed to prize him away from the Lisbon giants, while Real Madrid are said to be stepping up their interest.

A less expensive option has also emerged in recent days, with Ferguson said to be keeping close tabs on Celtic's Victor Wanyama. While the Kenyan looks to have plenty of promise, it would be asking a lot for a player who has never played at the top level to immediately adapt to life at the Theatre of Dreams.

Ferguson may continue to talk up the merits of his current squad and the lack of value in the transfer market, but until United add vital energy and combativeness that was so long provided by Roy Keane then they will continue to fall short against the very best.