Manchester United vs West Ham: Chris Smalling injury deepens Louis van Gaal's defensive crisis as United left without a recognised centre-back

United are already without Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Tyler Blackett and Smalling will undergo an assessment on Thursday to determine the extent of his injury

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The Independent Football

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal already had a minor injury crisis on his hands after losing a number of his first-choice defenders, but those concerns have deepened after centre-back Chris Smalling suffered a thigh injury during training in Wednesday – leaving United without a recognised centre-back this weekend.

United head into the home encounter against  West Ham on Saturday with Tyler Blackett suspended following his sending-off in the 5-3 defeat to Leicester last weekend. He is joined on the sidelines by both Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, who have suffered hamstring and ankle injuries respectively, and it now appears that Smalling will also be absent.

The England international will undergo a fitness test on Thursday to determine whether he will be available for the visit of QPR. Should he fall short, Van Gaal will be forced into a major reshuffle, with Daley Blind and Marcus Rojo likely to switch to centre-back and Luke Shaw coming in on the left for his first appearance since completing his £28m move from Southampton.

One future proposition would be to play Michael Carrick at the back with reports claiming Van Gaal is desperate for the England midfielder to return to fitness after suffering an ankle injury during the summer.


33-year-old Carrick is yet to make his first appearance of the season having missed the first two months of Van Gaal’s first campaign at Old Trafford. Carrick has returned to training at United’s Carrington base in recent weeks, and the Daily Mail claim that he has spoken with the Dutch manager regarding an immediate return to action as a makeshift centre-back.

Carrick could be rushed back from injury

Carrick has been deployed at the back in the past under Sir Alex Ferguson, but with limited success, and with Van Gaal yet to settle on a preferred starting XI, the return of Carrick could add to the uncertainty currently among the United squad.