Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal seeks defenders after Ashley Young injury blow

Louis van Gaal has admitted Manchester United are attempting to sign defensive reinforcements before the transfer deadline after the club’s title hopes suffered a new blow, with Ashley Young facing a “long time out” with a serious groin injury.

United, seven points adrift of the Premier League leaders Arsenal, face Southampton at Old Trafford this weekend without four senior full-backs after Young joined Luke Shaw (broken leg), Marcos Rojo (dislocated shoulder) and Antonio Valencia (ankle ligaments) on the sidelines.

Young’s setback is likely to end his hopes of earning an England recall ahead of Euro 2016, but with United back in the title race after their 1-0 victory at Liverpool last Sunday, Van Gaal admits it is crucial that experienced recruits arrive before the 1 February transfer deadline.

“Young has a severe groin injury and he has to be operated on,” Van Gaal said. “So he is a long time away again. He is a player who can play in the full-back positions, so we have four players injured in the full-back positions now. How we have coped with that all season is amazing already, but it is still a problem.”

Despite Ashley Cole’s availability after leaving Roma, it is understood that United are reluctant to move for the 35-year-old, although an inability to secure proven quality could yet prompt a rethink on the former Chelsea and England left-back.

Van Gaal admitted that finding the right player to provide a short-term solution is proving a difficult challenge. “Only [Matteo] Darmian is fit, so I need full-backs,” he said. “The difficulty is that we ask for a certain level [standard] and we are looking, but it is not so easy. You have seen how I have used youngsters like [Cameron] Borthwick-Jackson and [Guillermo] Varela, who are doing great, but the level of Manchester United is high.”