Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD FOR VAN GAAL ; United Boss Must Splash the Cash in January to Find Adequate Defensive Replacements.

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD FOR VAN GAAL ; United Boss Must Splash the Cash in January to Find Adequate Defensive Replacements.

Article excerpt

EVEN after spending Pounds 150m in the summer, Louis van Gaal must face up to the fact that it will take even more money resolve the defensive crisis that threatens United's chances of Champions League qualification.

The opening weeks and months of the Dutchman's Old Trafford reign may have been hampered by an improbable number of injuries and suspensions to his rear-guard.

But even with a full quota of defenders, his squad still looks well short of the required standard to mount a genuine Premier League title challenge.

Hopes of competing with Chelsea and City for the top prize this season are already all but dead with United sitting 13 points adrift of Jose Mourinho's leaders. But the minimum requirement of a top four finish is also in jeopardy as van Gaal struggles to put together an established back four.

He finished last Sunday's derby defeat to City with a defence comprised of two midfielders and a winger.

Luke Shaw - at 19-yearsold was the only established defender left.

Paddy McNair - a youth team player up until this season, who is expected to be a midfielder in the long term - partnered Michael Carrick in the centre of defence, with Antonio Valencia - the man signed - the man signed replace Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 - at right back. These are extreme times for United.

Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Rafael are all injured. Marcos Rojo dislocated his shoulder his shoulder at the Etihad Stadium and Chris Smalling's moment of madness cost him a red card and a suspension.

While van Gaal could not have forseen the problems that have undermined United's start to the season, the question is whether the players he is waiting on can form a defence strong enough to put his team in contention at the summit of English football and beyond? A back four of Rafael, Jones, Rojo and Shaw would arguably comprise his strongest back four.

Yet that quartet was run ragged by Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino in the 2-2 draw with West Brom last month. …

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