Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal has expressed caution over his January transfer plansGetty Images

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is being urged to cement the club's Champions League qualification place by reinforcing his defence in the January transfer window.

The win against Stoke City gave United their fourth victory in a row and sees them occupy the fourth qualifying spot for next season's top tier European competition amid an uncertain campaign undermined by a series of defensive problems.

Injuries to Jonny Evans, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Rafael and Luke Shaw have led to Van Gaal calling on youth pair Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett this season, with United's defensive resources stretched to the limit.

Argentine World Cup runner-up Rojo was the sole centre-back signed during a summer transfer window where both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand departed the club, as Van Gaal preferred to concentrate on improving the United attack.

But with another opportunity to spend coming up in next month's transfer window, former United right-back Paul Parker does not want to see the chance to improve the club's backline missed again.

"At the start of the season, I always believed United would get in the top four," he told Talksport.

"One thing I do hope is United can get in the market in January and go and get someone of stature, who is solid and who can add that little bit of strength in the backline and that belief that there is an actual defender there who can actually hold it together.

"At this moment in time, there are too many defenders getting injured at Manchester United. Looking at [Chris] Smalling constantly getting injured, you look at Phil Jones, when he gets injured it is not one or two games, it is long-term injuries all the time.

"The one thing that wins you trophies and gets you into areas of achieving success is continuity in the backline and Manchester United haven't had it all season."