Manchester United's injury crisis has left them with just one first-team option at centre-half ahead of the visit of West Ham United.
Louis van Gaal is without Jonny Evans and Tyler Blackett due to injury and suspension respectively, with Phil Jones still up to three weeks away from a return after suffering a hamstring injury on international duty.
The Dutchman has confirmed that Chris Smalling has joined the ever-growing injury list at Old Trafford and suggests he may look to the club's youth ranks to find a partner for £16m summer signing Marcos Rojo.
"We have nine injuries now, and Blackett is suspended so I have to go to the youth education and pick players," van Gaal told a press conference. "There are vacancies. The younger players can have their chances now."
Van Gaal's comments suggest he could turn to Under-21 captain Tom Thorpe and his defensive partner Paddy McNair to fill the void in his defence. Neither player has featured for the club since the Dutchman took the reins, but he insists he has little hesitation in introducing young talent into the first team.
"They are always ready. They are hungry to play the game. United's youth education has a level that can provide that. There is a big difference between youth games and the Premier League but in one game you can show yourself."
United's shortage of options will again raise questions over their transfer policy during the summer transfer window, when just one centre half arrived following the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Van Gaal was unable to shed any light on how long he will be without Evans and Smalling, whose latest knocks have occurred in the last five days.
"Smalling came out of yesterday's training session because he had stiff legs. I won't take risks with players - they have to be fit.
"Jonny Evans' bone is bruised a lot and we have to wait and see how it goes. I have nine injuries now and one player suspended with Blackett. All three of my right-sided centre-halves are out, so I will have to go to the youth education [system] and pick players from there."