Manchester United don't learn from transfer mistakes: Richard Buxton
Solskjaer watches rivals strengthen while Red Devils struggle to snap up targets
A failure to prepare is endemic of Manchester United's life after Sir Alex Ferguson.
Transfer targets seldom eluded the 20-time English champions under their erstwhile taskmaster's watch.
Without Ferguson's iron grip, however, they now regularly find themselves caught cold, with even Tottenham Hotspur actively beating them to signings.
Ferguson's infamous edict of "Lads, it's Tottenham" no longer applies when the Lilywhites have beaten his old club to the punch for Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilon.
Gareth Bale, too, chose to pass up the chance to make a long-anticipated move to the Theatre of Dreams in favour of an emotional return to his former north London parish.
Hesitation has become a recurring theme of the Red Devils' recruitment strategy and is increasingly determined by their varying Champions League qualification fortunes.
In the years since Ferguson finally hung up his hairdryer, they have spent an average of £161.8 million (S$283.8m) per summer when they have missed out on Champions League football.
Comparatively, nearly half of that figure was sanctioned for players in the seasons when their position in the EPL's top four has been either reclaimed or simply consolidated.
Ahead of a belated start to their new campaign against Crystal Palace on Sunday morning (Singapore time), United appear more vulnerable than when Ferguson left.
Donny van de Beek's arrival should have set down a marker. The midfielder's swift signing suggested the club had finally learned overdue lessons from their past mistakes.
That the Holland international remains the sole incoming in this window does little to disprove suggestions that those above Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are happy to rest on their laurels.
Any back-up plan when key targets slip away from the radar also appears non-existent.
When Borussia Dortmund were prepared to play hardball over Jadon Sancho, waging a phoney war appeared to be a greater priority for United than conducting negotiations.
Their belief that the Bundesliga giants would somehow relax their stance on the attacker before the transfer market closes early next month is showing little signs of vindication.
Sancho continuing to stay put is an indictment of United's flawed transfer policy.
Frustrations over the club's inability to strike a deal for the one-time Manchester City prospect are no longer confined to disenfranchised fans either.
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand is now weighing into the debate with some uncomfortable home truths.
He attempted to spell out the core difference between his former employers and Chelsea's respective strategies - one goes about their business in a quiet and largely understated fashion before announcing a wave of exciting new captures.
It speaks volumes of how far Old Trafford has fallen behind that the previously chaotic Blues are now considered a greater benchmark of how clubs should operate than them.
As one of Ferdinand's former teammates continues to fashion a team which would not look out of place on a PlayStation screen, the other is continuing to scramble around in the hope of picking up players of similar quality for a fraction of the price and hassle.
Solskjaer and the club's hierarchy cannot say they were not forewarned about winging it in the market.
Odion Ighalo's surprise return to the English Premier League in January was a move borne of sheer desperation as the Norwegian sought a proven back-up option to his attack.
Unless United get smart, attainable targets like Reguilon will continue to elude them.