Manchester United could be in store for a second consecutive mauling when West Ham United arrive at Old Trafford this weekend, as TEN first team absentees leave Louis van Gaal’s side precariously exposed.
Defender-less United will find themselves vulnerable as Sam Allardyce’s direct West Ham side look to capitalise on the gaping hole left in Van Gaal’s rear-guard following the 5-3 humiliation against Leicester last weekend.
Nigel Pearson’s side ripped through the Reds with alarming ease, highlighting the absence of leaders in an inexperienced, lightweight defence.
Tyler Blackett’s needless red card epitomised the current state of Manchester United’s backline, with a dearth of top-class players and a complete lack of team cohesion resulting in a clumsy and slightly embarrassing attempt to make amends.
The days of opposition crashing ineffectively into the bristling, impenetrable wall of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic seem light-years ago and the departure of club stalwart Patrice Evra is also being sorely felt.
Players touted as their replacements are proving inadequate in the extreme, with sides now viewing United as having a somewhat soft underbelly, despite all of their over-priced fangs at the sharp end of the team.
Dutchman Van Gaal is experiencing an even worse start than his much-maligned predecessor David Moyes, having experienced a hammering at the hands of Milton Keynes Dons in the League Cup, as well as underwhelming draws with Burnley and Sunderland, and an opening day defeat to Swansea City.
With Blackett’s suspension ruling him out of the weekend’s fixture, Van Gaal is left with just Marcos Rojo and possible debutant Luke Shaw as the only first team defenders available to hold together his fractured back line.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are all injured, although on the basis of current performances it could be argued that the group of them would be struggling to justify a place in the starting line-up regardless.
The options remaining to Van Gaal include returning Michael Carrick or possibly Darren Fletcher to centre-back in a repeat of the failed experiment initially tried by Sir Alex Ferguson.
An alternative option would be shifting the reliable Daley Blind into the back three, with the Dutchman having shown his versatility during the World Cup in Brazil.
Indeed, Blind and Rojo could well prove to be the foundations upon which Van Gaal can reconstruct United’s tarnished reputation.
Saturday offers the first chance for redemption.
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