Louis Van Gaal, in his attempt at getting Manchester United back to the top of the heap in the English Premier League, has not been helped by an injury list which only seems to keep growing every week, and come Saturday against West Ham, that injury list will be at its worst yet, with the number of absentees hitting double digits.
Van Gaal will have to make do without nine senior players, after Chris Smalling, who only just returned from injury, went right back into the sidelined list with a leg injury, along with a suspended Tyler Blackett, who received a red card in the 5-3 loss to Leicester City last Sunday.
"Smalling came out of yesterday's training session because he had stiff legs," Van Gaal said on Thursday. "I won't take risks with players -- they have to be fit.
"Jonny Evans' bone is bruised a lot and we have to wait and see how it goes. I have nine injuries now and one player suspended with [Tyler] Blackett."
Evans, Smalling, Blackett and Phil Jones are all out, leaving Van Gaal with two options – partnering Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind, two left-sided defenders, at the back, or bringing in a youngster, from the developmental squad, into the first team, with Tom Thorpe one of the prime candidates.
"All three of my right-sided centre-halves are out, so I will have to go to the youth education [system] and pick players from there," Van Gaal revealed.
"There are vacancies. The younger players can have their chance.
"The young players are always ready. They are hungry to play the game. United's youth education has a level that can provide that. There's a big difference between youth games and the Premier League but in one game you can show yourself."
Van Gaal is under pressure for a positive result following the embarrassing 5-3 loss to Leicester City, when they let slip a comfortable 3-1 lead. However, with the manager set to name another patched-up defence, the likelihood of Manchester United's formidable attacking unit having to outscore their opponents only increases.
"At the start we won all of our games but now we are in difficult circumstances," Van Gaal said. "We should have won last weekend -- we had to win when we were 3-1 up. If we had we would have been two points off second place.
"But because of the loss you are now questioning me. If we won then it would have been different. We will overcome things -- the season lasts a long time."