Louis van Gaal has confirmed that his reason for removing Radamel Falcao from action during Manchester United’s stunning defeat to Leicester City was because the striker is lacking match fitness.
Falcao was substituted after 72 minutes for Adnan Januzaj with Manchester United punch-drunk having surrendered a 3-1 lead, while Leicester were able to land a knockout blow shortly after the Colombian had been withdrawn.
Van Gaal drew criticism from supporters, on Twitter at least, for this substitution with many believing it should have been Robin van Persie rather than Falcao who was replaced by Januzaj.
Falcao had provided the assist for the opening goal of the afternoon, with the centre-forward playing a lovely ball to the back post for Van Persie, his strike partner at the King Power Stadium, to head past Kasper Schmeichel.
But the Manchester United manager has explained the reasoning for the decision, claiming the decision was not made because Falcao was having a “bad” game, but rather that the player still needs to “build up” his fitness in order to complete a full 90 minutes.
This information was tweeted from the official Manchester United account, and led to hundreds of responses lamenting Van Gaal's subs as a key reason in the defeat.
The fact that Van Gaal was able to replace Falcao with a player of Januzaj’s ability and still keep Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Angel di Maria on the pitch - even if the latter was later subbed - highlighted just how fearsome United can be if the click.
They had demonstrated their potential a week previous against Queens Park Rangers and the ability to score goals will not be a concern but, of course, that cannot be said for the other end of the pitch.
The departures of both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, veterans over over 750 appearances for Manchester United, made clear the need for defensive reinforcements of repute during the transfer window, but these exits were not sufficiently compensated for.
Van Gaal was not able to recruit an out-and-out centre-back, although Marcos Rojo will play here if needed, and the failure to do so has become even more apparent in the wake of the Leicester defeat.
Jonny Evans was taken off in the first-half having sustained an injury and could now miss the club’s next league outing against West Ham, while Tyler Blackett will definitely be unavailable having been sent off against the Foxes.
Phil Jones has also been out with a hamstring injury, which leaves Van Gaal with only Rojo and Chris Smalling to chose from for these central defence positions, and Sam Allardyce’s impressive West Ham will travel to Old Trafford believing they have a real chance for victory.