Since Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United seem to have become more open, offering PR-sanctioned olive branches to fanzines, while the level of sponsorship has increased dramatically as ever. An official Twitter account was launched, publicity went into overdrive and the whole edifice looked every inch a modern, forward-thinking club, for better or for worse. Except that is, in the dugout.
Where an increasing number of clubs, including Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur, have moved to the model of having a director of football alongside a head coach, United have stuck with the old ways, bestowing dictatorial powers upon David Moyes. It's been overlooked what a ludicrous show of faith this is - Arsene Wenger enjoys much power in North London, but like Alex Ferguson, he has the longevity and track record to prove it. For Moyes, a trophiless manager who still needs to prove himself, to simply be allowed to inherit Ferguson's powers and installed as dictator for life is remarkable.
Unfortunately, that also means that David Moyes can have some of the blame for the disaster of the summer transfer window placed on his shoulders. Rumours persisted that Moyes was too thorough, a ditherer, and would prove indecisive in the transfer market. So it proved, with the only real acquisition being Marouane Fellaini, a player he was already familiar with. A move for Thiago was considered and then failed to materialise, and the club's pursuit of Ander Herrera lacked the conviction necessary to pay the but-out fee.
Moyes will have a second wind in January, but United's league woes mean he will not be approaching it from a position of strength. The club have struggled without the presence of Robin van Persie, who single-handedly dragged a poor squad through the league last year. Against Swansea City in the opening game, United were outplayed and performed poorly, but were bailed out by the Dutchman - too often since, the same has happened, except the team's saviour has not been present.
Long-term, things are looking good if Moyes can remain competitive. The right-back and goalkeeper positions should be locked down with two excellent, potentially world-class players for years to come. There is also a wealth of talent in defence and up front. Nick Powell and Adnan Januzaj look absolute certainties to provide goals and creativity from midfield for the foreseeable future, while some of Jesse Lingard, Larnell Cole, Andreas Pereira, Tom Lawrence, Michael Keane, Will Keane, Angelo Henriquez and Wilfried Zaha will not only make it at the club but be of tremendous use to their ranks.
In short, Moyes does not need many players if he is set on remaining in the job long-term. Had he a squad capable of competing for the league right now, he could afford to dither, safe in the knowledge that getting the two or three perfect players would leave him with a squad capable of matching anyone in Europe in time. Unfortunately, the squad as it is is barely top-four standard, and those players will need to be identified in January.
Ander Herrera and Ilkay Gundogan have been the most-touted solutions, and both bring the pace, tenacity and creativity to United's midfield that they currently lack. A host of other midfielders have also been mentioned: Everton Ribeiro, Fredy Guarin, Koke, Yohan Cabaye, Remy Cabella and William Carvalho among them. Within that group of players probably lie two targets who United could acquire that could vastly improve them, and Moyes will have to hope his selection is right to spur United on.
Another big name mentioned is that of Marco Reus, who would seem to be an ideal fit with the range of talents he provides to an attack, as well as his versatility and age - there would seem to be little risk in that deal, making it worth the subtantial amount of money that would be required to activate his clause. Patrice Evra will also need to be replaced, although that can surely wait until the summer.
Moyes has not done an appalling job at United so far - his progress in Europe has been good, while his defeats have, Manchester City aside, been narrow and unfortunate, if sometimes exacerbated with strange substitutions. If things can be turned around quickly and top-quality players identified and secured early in January, the prospect of a title challenge is still not an absurdity.
The problem is that there is very little margin for error now. As well as being ponderous over securing transfer targets, Moyes has also taken too long to get to grips with his squad, with the seemingly random starting eleven and bench selections making Ferguson look predictable. Squad rotation has too frequently looked like random, desperate experimentation in the hope of finding a winning formula that in all likelihood doesn't exist.
Yet as much as nobody has taken it upon themselves to step up to guide United through a traumatic season, none of the club's key players, who will be around for a long time to come, have performed badly either. Danny Welbeck looks to be progressing well, Phil Jones has been excellent, veterans like Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra have been superb, and the likes of Jonny Evans, Rafael and Chris Smalling are continuing to provide vital services to the squad. If Moyes can remain in the fight, then much of the wider picture will fall into place. Only the spectre of the January window stands between United and salvaging a successful season out of a disastrous start now.