When Manchester United file out on October 20thagainst West Brom, Louis van Gaal will be hoping that defender Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will be fit to join the squad. Since the Dutchman’s arrival at the Theatre of Dreams, he has had to face several injury situations. In fact this season, the manager has never had all his favourite defensive options available for a match. In trying to adjust to the situation, van Gaal designed a make shift defence which has seen him hand debuts to two youth team defenders in Tyler Blacklet and Paddy McNair. While his design has paid off in some matches, it was disastrous in some others with the opening day loss to Swansea and the devastating loss to Leicester City at the King Power stadium being the highlight.
With Marcos Rojo deployed in the centre-back position, Louis van Gaal couldn’t possibly deploy another left footer (Tyler Blacklet) with him and so he has chosen to field McNair, but with the injury to the 19-year-old, Manchester United may face turbulent times if they cannot get either of Phil Jones or Chris Smalling to match fitness with just about 10 days to go.
The 22-year-old Phil Jones has been out of action since he sustained a hamstring injury while on international duty with the English national team while Chris Smalling who is only 2 years older sustained a thigh injury during Manchester United’s loss to Leicester City.
If these two players fail to feature in the game against West Brom, Louis van Gaal will be forced to hand another youth defender his debut and this will confirm the fears of several fans and pundits when they spoke against the Manchester United boss’s reluctance to shop for a marquee defender all summer. The Red Devils were linked to several of them but after the signing of Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon, and Luke Shaw from Southampton, no other additionswere made to the Red devil’s defence. While some people maintained that the club’s lack of continental action may have scared worthy defenders away, we must however note that Manchester United acquired Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, albeit on loan, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, all of whom sacrificed the pomp and pageantry of the Champions League to join ranks with Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford.
However tough all these may seem, Louis van Gaal is an experienced manager and even with the defensive worries that he faced since the commencement of this season, he has still managed to deliver 3 victories from Manchester United’s last 4 games, so whatever the option that the Dutchman has available to him, we can only hope that he still has some tricks left up his sleeves.
By Tomilayo Alapinni