MANCHESTER, England - David Moyes, the Manchester United manager, is poised to make a flying start to his major rebuilding job for the fallen champions after the end of this season.
Moyes revealed yesterday he was already "well into my planning" regarding recruits as he nears the end of his difficult first season in charge, following the retirement of long-time manager Alex Ferguson.
However, Moyes was acutely aware that the World Cup, which opens in Brazil halfway through June and lasts for a month, will impinge on his efforts to reinforce the squad.
"It's difficult as players are going to be going away for the World Cup, so it's maybe not quite as easy," said Moyes.
"Ideally, all clubs would like to get the work done early. We cannot guarantee it but will try to make that happen."
Hopes of a late recovery to claim fourth place, and a chance to qualify for the Champions League, are all but mathematically impossible, with United 10 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal heading into the final four league matches of this season, starting with Sunday's clash at Moyes's former club, Everton.
While the likely absence of Champions League football will be a blow to finances as well as prestige, there will be no shortage of funds.
A new kit deal is imminent, with current suppliers Nike in pole position for a contract that could be worth up to STG600 million ($A1.08 billion).
United's US-based owners, the Glazer family, are believed to be prepared to make STG100 million ($A180m) available for Moyes to reconstruct the squad which, only a year ago, won the Premier League title but has fallen well short this season.
Moyes will lose his captain Nemanja Vidic, who is to sign for Inter Milan, and he could be joined on his way out of Old Trafford by left-back Patrice Evra.
Meanwhile former England centre-back Rio Ferdinand is also expected to depart, and at 40 years old, Ryan Giggs's golden career is winding down.
Moyes was in Lisbon in midweek for a cup tie between Benfica and Porto, whose French centre-back, Eliaquim Mangala, is thought to be earmarked as a successor to Vidic, while Benfica midfielder Andre Gomes, 20, was outstanding.
The United manager, unable to prise Leighton Baines from Everton last pre-season, now has Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, 18, in mind.