Following the news that Manchester United right-back Rafael has returned to England after suffering a groin injury, it is clearer than ever that Louis van Gaal needs to be extremely busy in what remains of the summer transfer window if he is to make a success of his proposed 3-5-2 formation.
In midfield areas and up front, United have more than enough options to ensure suspensions, injuries and dips in form are covered. But Rafael’s injury is just the latest evidence that the club does not currently have the players to ensure the formation can be used effectively for the entire season.
Much has already been written about the fact that United now have just three experienced central defenders, meaning that van Gaal needs to bring in at least two more to ensure he always has cover for his defensive trio.
But with Rafael injured, it also shows that the United boss needs to bring in either a centre-back who can also operate as a right wing-back, or another out-and-out right-sided fullback.
The Brazilian’s regular injury layoffs were less of a problem when Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were all available to cover. But with the latter two now expected to play far more regularly in the back three, the cover is simply not there.
With only one experienced left-back at the club (in the form of Luke Shaw) it will be a case of either giving more game-time to the likes of Tyler Blackett and Reece James, or spending big on defensive reinforcements prior to September.
United are on the cusp of being great again, but as well as that much-needed box-to-box midfielder, they must ensure they spend substantially in defensive areas, which could be easier said than done.