Louis van Gaal is ready to hand a Manchester United debut to youth team product Tom Thorpe against West Ham United, as the extent of the club's defensive injury crisis is revealed in the build-up to Saturday's Premier League match at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils boss will be without a number of regular first-team stars tomorrow, forcing his hand with regards to selection for the Hammers clash, and confirmed plans to raid the development squad for short-term reinforcements.
With central defensive trio Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans all sidelined by injury and recently promoted academy product Tyler Blackett suspended, the door has been opened for young centre-back pairing Paddy McNair and the aforementioned Thorpe to be fast-tracked into the senior side.
"They are in the squad," Van Gaal is quoted as saying by the Daily Star. "That is always why we have a youth education.
"It was also our policy [to utilise the youth squads] and always the policy of the club too."
Luke Shaw is also set for his first start at left-back following his £27 million transfer from Southampton, and that will push fellow summer signing Marcos Rojo into the centre; a position he has played for former club Sporting Lisbon.
It remains to be seen which of the two uncapped players - Thorpe or McNair - will partner the Argentina international at the heart of Manchester United's defence, but the former boasts slightly more experience having enjoyed a fairly productive loan spell in the Championship with Birmingham City earlier this year.
Alternatively The Guardian has suggested that the Dutch coach could ask his vice-captain Darren Fletcher to play as a makeshift central defender, but one player that certainly won't be deployed there is Daley Blind despite his well known versatility.
"I don't like having too many left-sided defenders or left-footed players [like Blind] in defence," he explained.
"I think always of balance so [instead] I have to pick up a right-sided central defender from the youth education.
"Normally, I am always doing things like that. I have already said that we have a lot of vacancies when you buy only six players and let 14 players go.
"The amount of injuries is worrying me and they are not coming back."
Either way, it's hardly the best preparation for an already wounded Manchester United side that is coming off the back of a shock 5-3 defeat at the hands of newly-promoted Leicester City last weekend, the game during which Blackett was red carded at the King Power Stadium.
The Red Devils twice gave away two-goal leads and suffered a second half capitulation that resulted in Van Gaal's men conceding four goals in just 21 minutes, heaping more pressure on a team that has won only one of six games in all competitions in 2014/15.
That wasn't even the most embarrassing performance, after the - albeit weakened - side fell to a 4-0 defeat against League One side MK Dons in the Capital One Cup second round; a match that both Thorpe and McNair watched from the substitutes bench.
Now one of those young players might finally get a taster of first-team action themselves, and have chance to help improve Manchester United's fortunes when they face Sam Allardyce's team this weekend.
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