Can this 21-year-old reserve player solve United’s defensive problems?

With Manchester United's defence severely depleted through injury and suspension, could this young player be the answer?

Manchester United go into this weekend’s Premier League match against West Ham United in the midst of a defensive injury crisis.

That word ‘crisis’ is thrown about too easily when it comes to football, but in this case it is apt, with United definitely without the suspended Tyler Blackett and the injured Phil Jones and Jonny Evans, while Chris Smalling also picked up a knock in training that may rule him out.

If that is the case, Marcos Rojo will be the only senior central defender available for a match that United simply must win.

Following the 5-3 defeat to Leicester City last weekend, Lois van Gaal will know his side have to get back to winning ways, and do so consistently if they want to finish in the top four.

With Michael Keane on loan at Burnley, United could call on another 21-year-old defender who many fans felt would make the breakthrough before Blackett.

Tom Thorpe was given the captaincy of United’s under-21 side in 2012, and he has made 59 appearances at that level to date, scoring five goals in the process.

Capped at every level for England from under-16 to under-21, Thorpe also spent a spell on loan at Birmingham City, featuring six times for the club.

While his first-team experience overall is limited and he has yet to make his senior bow for United, the same could be said of Blackett before van Gaal gave him a chance.

With United so thin in defensive areas, there is every chance Thorpe will get his chance sooner rather than later, and those who have seen him come through the ranks at United will know he will not let them down.

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