Manchester United's defensive crisis was dealt another blow this morning, with news that Nemanja Vidic will miss Tuesday's Champions League tie against Wolfsburg, leaving United with just two recognized defenders in their squad.
Patrice Evra is the sole surviving member of United's defence, with 19-year-old Oliver Gill, son of chief executive David, joining the dilapidated squad from the reserves.
Michael Carrick will be expected to fill in at centre back again after Vidic failed to recover from flu that ruled him out of Saturday's victory at West Ham, but with both Gary Neville and Wes Brown picking up knocks at the weekend, Darren Fletcher or Darron Gibson could join him in a worryingly unfamiliar back line.
Brown and Neville join Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, John O'Shea, Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, and Jonny Evans on the ever-increasing injury list, and with Richard De Laet unregistered for the Champions League. The prospect of facing a Wolfsburg team who need a victory to ensure qualification has grown ever more difficult.
Defenders weren't the only notable absentees boarding the flight to Germany, with Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov, and Federico Macheda also left behind, with a visit from Aston Villa on Saturday evening clearly in Sir Alex Ferguson's mind.
Magnus Eikrem, Cameron Stewart, Matt James, and Oliver Norwood have joined Oliver Gill from the youth ranks, none of which have even made the bench for United's first team.
Wolfsburg have already proven themselves as an impressive attacking force in Europe, with United needing a late Michael Carrick strike to seal a 2-1 victory against the German champions in September. And with their potent strike force of Edin Dzeko and Grafite capable of giving Europe's toughest defenders a troublesome evening, United's ramshackle back four will have a difficult, and in the case of Carrick and whoever else swaps the midfield for defence, a fresh challenge on their hands.
United need just a point to secure top spot in Group B, and with yet another batch of young prodigies waiting for their chance to seize their moment against a free-scoring opposition in need of a victory, goals should be expected.
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