Louis van Gaal and Warren Joyce may be working together on finding a viable replacement for the influential Michael Carrick as Manchester United under-21 captain Tom Thorpe swapped his usual centre-back role for a midfield spot against Southampton.
The 22-year-old lined up alongside Liam Grimshaw in the centre of midfield as first-team defenders Tyler Blackett and Phil Jones made up the heart of the defence in United’s under-21 clash with the Saints on Monday night.
The position change could have purely been in order to accommodate Blackett and Jones in defence, but given Thorpe’s stature and standing among the under-21 side, it seems unlikely.
After the loss to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, questions were raised over the importance of Carrick’s role in the Red Devils side and how they could replace him if his injury concerns continue – not just in the present, but also in the future.
Therefore, it could be reasonable to suspect Joyce and Van Gaal put Thorpe in defensive midfield against a strong Southampton under-21 side to see how he would react and whether he could fill that role in the first-team.
Is Thorpe the answer for Van Gaal in Carrick’s absence?
Thorpe impressed against Southampton and the clean sheet secured against one of the U21 Premier League’s most potent attacking forces speaks volumes.
He is a good footballer, as well as a good defender, and given United’s current predicament he is surely worth a gamble in the senior side, even if only for 45 minutes.
Van Gaal needs to bring back the balance to his side and ensure they get over the line as their top-four spot is anything but secure with three games remaining.
Another loss for United would be a huge boost for Liverpool and the former Dutch national coach will be eager to avoid such a scenario.
Crystal Palace away seems like an ideal stage for Thorpe to come into the team to see how he performs - and if he can prove his worth, then a bigger role next season could be on the cards.