Manchester: Manchester United have been hit by a fresh injury crisis after manager Louis van Gaal revealed he has only one fit centre-back ahead of West Ham`s visit to Old Trafford.
United have only managed one win from six games in all competitions this season and hit a new low last weekend when they squandered a 3-1 lead in a 5-3 loss at Leicester.
That shock defeat brutally exposed the defensive frailties that were already a concern for van Gaal and to make matters worse for the Dutchman he is dealing with yet another wave of injuries which have decimated his options at centre-back.
United have suffered an alarming number of injuries since van Gaal took charge after the World Cup in July and the latest outbreak has left him with Marcos Rojo as the only senior central defender available for Saturday`s Premier League match.
Jonny Evans suffered a bruised ankle against Leicester and Tyler Blackett is suspended following his dismissal at the King Power stadium.
Chris Smalling was injured in training on Wednesday and will not feature against the Hammers, while Phil Jones remains sidelined with a hamstring problem.
It means van Gaal could be forced to deploy Rojo, who has been used at left-back this season, and either Daley Blind or Darren Fletcher, both usually midfielders, at centre-back against Sam Allardyce`s side.
"All the three right-sided centre-halves are out. I don`t know how long they will be out for," van Gaal told reporters on Thursday.
"Evans is a very difficult one. His bone is bruised a lot and we have to wait and see, to evaluate it.
"Smalling yesterday ran out of the training session because he had stiff legs.
"We have to see what that means. But I don`t take risks with players."
Van Gaal has never before had such a large number of injury absences, but he says he will not be able to tweak his training methods too much.
The former Netherlands boss, who is considering handing 19-year-old defender Paddy McNair his debut, also claimed he has no concerns about drafting more youngsters into his squad for the West Ham match.
"I have to admit that I`m never in this situation before so that`s strange," he said.
"For me it`s difficult to understand because we are evaluating what we can do in a different way but you have to train on a certain level because otherwise you can`t play a game.
"I`ve already said I will adapt to a certain level but I cannot train lower because then you can`t perform in the right way.
"We have a lot of injuries, nine injuries now, and Blackett suspended, so that means that 10 are off so I have to go to the youth team to pick players.
"The younger players can pick their chances now and that`s also the policy of this club."
As well as the defensive worries, midfield trio Michael Carrick, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini are also among those missing.
In the circumstances, van Gaal admitted the challenge of ending United`s current struggles is arguably the toughest test of a managerial career that has included spells at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax among others.
"At this moment maybe (it is the hardest job) but you have to see in a year and not in one week that we have nine injuries and a red card," van Gaal said.
"I don`t think that you can judge the effect. It`s also an incident.
"As a manager you already know in advance that it`s a big challenge and this club is in a transition.
"But you don`t know in advance what the difficult moments we have to see because when we started we won everything and in a very difficult circumstances.
"Now we are in very difficult circumstances again and we can still win."