Manchester United are down to the bare bones at the back for their game with West Ham.
There has been a lot of talk about United's lack of central defensive players heading into the new season. Indeed, even before Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left over the summer, the defence looked like it could do with some quality reinforcements after last year's disappointing performances.
Van Gaal okayed three defensive additions, all of which had starred from left back over the last 12 months. Marcus Rojo is the one player that is most naturally capable in the middle, but even he is not established in that position at the very highest level, while Daley Blind seems destined to play in midfield and Luke Shaw, although yet to feature, is only capable of playing on the left hand side.
With four central defenders out injured ahead of their game with West Ham on Saturday, Van Gaal has already admitted that he is down to just one player in that role, and may have to dip into the youth teams, or play midfielders out of position to cover there.
But when looking at some of the central defenders available this summer, and taking into consideration the club's full on, and expensive recruitment drive, it seems strange to see that United didn't pick up one of the players listed below, many of which they were mentioned as being interested in:
Mehdi Benatia - The Moroccan was possibly the strongest defender that ended up moving this summer, and he was somebody that United were very much linked with when it did look like he would be leaving Roma. But just as a move seemed odds on, Bayern took an interest, and from there it seemed a relatively easy deal for the Bavarian giants. It is very possible that Benatia wanted to join a settled club, playing Champions League football this year, but United have shown with the signings of Di Maria and Falcao that they still have some significant pull when it comes to bringing in big names, and undoubtedly the financial clout to outperform pretty much anyone when it comes to transfer fees and wages. If they would have desperately pursued the 27-year-old, it is very likely they could have obtained him.
Ezequiel Garay - One player that moved fairly early in the window, in the middle of having a superb World Cup with Argentina is Ezequiel Garay. He was snapped up by Zenit for a relatively modest sum that, depending on reports, was €15 million, though others even stated it being as low as €6 million. Having impressed consistently in his time at Benfica, and being a big, powerful and dominant stopper very much in the mould of Vidic, it is surprising United didn't consider him to replace the Serb. He would have also struck up an instant partnership with international teammate Rojo.
Thomas Vermaelen - Like Benatia, United were also very closely linked to the former Arsenal captain, only for the 28-year-old to switch sign on at Luis Enrique's Barcelona revolution. Perhaps it wouldn't have been easy to sway the Belgian's mind once he heard of the interest from the Nou Camp, but United seemed to dither on pushing any possible deal forward, giving the La Liga giants plenty of time to make their own enquiries.
Stefan De Vrij - No other central defender moved this summer that Van Gaal would have known better than De Vrij, with the former Feyenoord youngster having proved himself an outstanding component of the Dutch showing in Brazil. His youth, and his ability to play on the right hand side of defence, enabling him to complement Rojo, should have made De Vrij an attractive option, but a move to Lazio, who aren't even playing European football this year, went ahead with interest already established before the World Cup.
Toby Alderweireld - Probably the least accomplished of the players on this list, but Vermaelen's teammate Alderweireld still featured regularly in Belgium's World Cup tournament, and also played his part in Ajax's success of recent years as well as Atletico Madrid's impressive season last year. That Southampton managed to get him on loan, surely indicates a missed opportunity.