By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Manchester United’s list of unavailable players reached double figures after Jesse Lingard and Paddy McNair limped out of Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League defeat to Bournemouth.
Astonishingly, United have now lost six players in their last three matches, with Lingard (hamstring) and McNair (cramp) following Chris Smalling (groin), Matteo Darmian (hamstring), Morgan Schneiderlin (hip) in sustaining new injuries. McNair also suffered an ankle problem in the goal-less draw against West Ham seven days previously.
Questions are being asked of the injury prevention methods of manager Louis van Gaal and his staff as the team struggle to cope without so many first-team players.
United crashed out of the Champions League when a youthful team lost 3-2 to Wolfsburg in midweek and followed up by Saturday’s loss at the Vitality Stadium.
The United manager was forced to name an inexperienced back four for the away trip to the Cherries due to his lengthy injury list, with Guillermo Varela and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson handed full Premier League debuts either side of McNair and Danny Blind.
There was some encouraging news when Phil Jones came on as a late substitute for McNair after missing a series of matches.
Winger Lingard suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury half an hour into the first half, and was immediately replaced by Brazilian youngster Andreas Pereira.
They were fresh blows to Van Gaal, who had gone into the match without eight injured players in addition to the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Speaking after the game, Van Gaal explained that McNair was substituted after suffering from cramp, while Lingard will now be assessed to determine the nature and extent of his injury, which is a suspected hamstring problem.
“McNair had cramp, he hasn’t played much this season,” the manager said. “With Lingard, it is a second occurrence in a short space of time so we will have to see.”
Van Gaal was unable to call upon six injured defenders at the start – substitute Jones, Smalling, Darmian, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw – as well as Ander Herrera and Wayne Rooney.
Van Gaal expects Smalling, Darmian and Herrera (hamstring) to be back for the Premier League home match against Norwich on 19 December but is not hopeful about skipper Rooney while Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia will be out well into 2016.
The growing fear for United is that Rooney, who has missed the team’s last two matches with an ankle injury, could also be sidelined for the back-to-back Stoke and Chelsea matches on 26 December and 28 December, ruling him out until 2016.