Manchester United like to boast they are the biggest club in the world.
As big as God, according to new chief executive Richard Arnold, who once told a summit he addressed in 2016 that the “level we are engaging at, to put it in context, is akin to religion.”
It’s about time they started doing what it says on the tin.
If United just step aside to allow Liverpool to snatch Benfica striker Darwin Nunez from under their noses then the bright new future promised by Arnold when he took over from Ed Woodward earlier this year will already be a pipedream.
New boss Erik ten Hag has no chance of bringing the glory days back if United continue to operate in the transfer market like they have since way before Sir Alex Ferguson retired nine years ago.
Put simply, they have to blow Liverpool out of the running to land Nunez by walking the walk after years of talking the talk.
United have identified Nunez as a player who can become a talisman for a new era.
At 22, he looks the real deal – and Jurgen Klopp obviously thinks so too.
When it became clear that Sadio Mane no longer wanted to be at Anfield, the Merseysiders didn’t hang around.
They’ve gone all in to sign a replacement. They’ve acted like big clubs do. Like United used to in the days when they signed players of the stature of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Juan Sebastian Veron, Dwight Yorke and Gary Pallister.
United are no longer the best team on the block, of course.
But they were in Liverpool’s shadow in the 1970s when Scottish international defender Gordon McQueen explained his decision to join United from Leeds by insisting: “Ask all the players in the country which club they would like to play for and 99 percent would say Manchester United. The other one percent are liars.”
Now isn’t the time for Richard Arnold to go all coy.
The Glazer family who own United have tried to spend their way out of the slump before, lavishing over £1billion on signings since Ferguson’s reign ended.
But their modus operandi has appeared to be to spend whatever it takes to sign any player who is a target for Manchester City.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire, Fred, Alexis Sanchez – signings all motivated by the desire to get one over on the so-called noisy neighbours rather than as an exercise in team building.
Towards the end of Ferguson’s tenure, there was always the feeling that United were doing things on the cheap and getting by on the genius of their manager.
In the summer of 2009, when Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid for a world-record £80million, in came a slowing Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia.
The following year, it was Javier Hernandez, Phil Jones, Ashley Young and Bebe. Then David De Gea and Nick Jones.
Solid signings, some of them, but hardly likely to get pulses racing on the Stretford End.
Robin van Persie was torn away from City’s grasp in 2012 when he decided to leave Arsenal – and duly helped deliver Ferguson’s 13th and final Premier League title.
But simply trying to gazump City isn’t a long-term strategy for success.
Ten Hag wants Nunez. He’s also after Frenkie De Jong and Jurrien Timber. Now isn’t the time for United to hesitate.
Last summer, they heralded the arrival of Jadon Sancho for £73million just a year after Borussia Dortmund demanded £108million.
Astute business on the face of it. But to paraphrase Liverpool owner John W Henry, it was never made clear what the losing bid was.
Liverpool have not blinked when it has come to signing players who can make the difference – Mane, Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker.
Now, after coming second in both the Premier League and Champions League they are ready to pay £85million for Nunez after seeing City sign Erling Haaland.
Manchester United? Well they’re in a league of their own on Facebook and Instagram.