Paddy McNair decision would show Van Gaal has let down the club

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Paddy McNair is a name that even Manchester United fans - well, those that don't keep too close a check on the club's youth setup anyway - can be forgiven for not having heard before.

The 19-year-old had, before today, yet to be really mentioned with regard to making an imminent impact on the first-team squad at Old Trafford yet could find himself thrust rather prematurely into the limelight this weekend for the Premier League fixture against West Ham due to an injury crisis that has rather decimated Louis van Gaal's defensive options.

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Defensive crisis

Already without the services of Phil Jones after the England centre-back suffered a hamstring problem while on international duty in Switzerland last month, Manchester United will also be missing Jonny Evans for Saturday's top-flight tie against the Hammers due to an ankle issue that forced him to be substituted after just 30 minutes of the calamitous and altogether humiliating 5-3 defeat to newly-promoted Leicester City.

As if those aforementioned losses were not bad enough for a team already sorely lacking in established leaders at the back, it now appears as if the underwhelming Chris Smalling - who replaced Evans at the King Power Stadium for his first appearance in almost a month - could also be sidelined once again with a thigh strain sustained in training this week.

This epidemic has led to suggestions that McNair - who has yet to make a single senior appearance for Manchester United - could well be drafted in to cover the shortfall for the visit of Sam Allardyce's rejuvenated Hammers.

Now, while I am certainly reluctant to condemn the possibility of a talented young player being given a chance to impress after working consistently hard to earn his stripes, such a decision would serve as yet another reminder of the pitfalls and repercussions of Manchester United's puzzling and altogether misguided summer transfer policy.

Summer transfer failure

How, Manchester United fans are entitled to query, was it ever allowed to come to this? 

The club knew far in advance of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand's summer departures that the duo would not remain beyond the end of their respective contracts and had plenty of time - even with the uncertainty over the managerial situation - to devise and subsequently enforce a sufficient contingency plan with the aim of minimising the inevitable impact caused by the loss of two experienced and successful campaigners.

Even if that plan had to be significantly altered with the arrival of a new manager with fresh ideas and different transfer targets, the acquisition of at least one new recognised and proven centre-back should have remained a significant priority for Manchester United before the season even began.

Rojo not enough

Van Gaal did, of course, move to complete a deal for Argentine defender Marcos Rojo in August, yet that particular purchase is unlikely to have satisfied supporters who have long-since preached the need for strong defensive reinforcements.

Rojo boasts versatility to play anywhere across the backline, yet it is common knowledge that he was generally considered as Argentina's weak-link prior to the 2014 World Cup and, if his performance in that aforementioned loss to Leicester is anything to go by, it seems that he is going to need time to adapt before he can be considered a consistently reliable option in the heart of Van Gaal's backline.

Transfer policy

In defence of Van Gaal, he cannot possibly have foreseen Manchester United falling victim to this number of injuries so heavily concentrated in arguably their weakest area.

A manager of the Dutchman's quality, experience and considerable reputation, though, must surely have noticed that centre-back was a position in dire need of strengthening if Manchester United were to have any hope whatsoever of banishing memories of last season's seventh-place finish and at least regain their Champions League status after an enforced one-year absence from Europe's most elite club competition.

Are we to presume that Van Gaal was well aware of the problem, yet was too ambitious in his pursuit of his ideal replacements? Or rather did he blindly ignore it and instead seek to provide a boost to the club's flagging credentials by loading up on top-drawer attacking talent in the shape of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao with the idea of winning games by virtue of sheer firepower?

Unrealistic targets?

German defender and World Cup winner Mats Hummels was most frequently linked with a potential switch to the Premier League, yet as the window progressed it became increasingly apparent that he had little intention of leaving Borussia Dortmund and the Bundesliga title hopefuls had no reason whatsoever to sell one of their most prized assets.

Thomas Vermaelen, Mehdi Benatia, Miranda, Eliaquim Mangala and even former Red Devils youth graduate Ryan Shawcross were all mooted - yet none - with the possible exception of former Arsenal captain Vermaelen - ever appeared even close to moving to Old Trafford.

Ultimately, if Smalling does not fail to recover in time to face West Ham and McNair is invited to join the matchday squad as a matter of necessity, I am sure he will be given nothing but hearty encouragement by the 75,000+ crowd that will flock to the Theatre of Dreams for the fixture.

However, the situation should never have been allowed to progress into such a dire state. Manchester United's dismal failure to strengthen adequately at centre-back prior to the deadline was negligent at best and Van Gaal's side will continue to suffer the consequences.

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Louis van Gaal
Manchester United
Premier League

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