Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has revealed that Radamel Falcao is facing a fight to feature for the club because his third tactical "remodelling" of the side creates room for only one striker.
Falcao has scored only once for United since the club agreed a £6m signing-on fee and wages of around £265,000 a week and there are concerns about his fitness with a calf injury, which has kept him out of the side for the past three weeks.
And, even when the striker regains fitness, Van Gaal's need for better "balance" in the side, which has been lacking defensive ballast, means Falcao faces a fight for the solitary striker's position, with Robin van Persie ahead of him in the ranks.
"I have to decide which striker," Van Gaal said. "It is not his fault. It is not his fault [that] with the other system I could play with two strikers but then the balance wasn't good.
"We had difficulties in the last half an hour [of a game.] That is why I have remodelled the structure of my team for the third time.
"Since then we have less goals in our favour but also less goals conceded and we have played against the better teams in the Premier League in that time on an equal level, more or less."
Van Gaal has switched from 3-4-1-2, to a diamond midfield and, against Manchester City, a 4-4-1-1 - a formation he seems to have decided to continue with.
The United manager was unable to state when Falcao would be back in the side and said that the defender Marcos Rojo's dislocated shoulder injury was of the type that could occur at any time.
United have decided against an operation, which could mean the player is back within fewer than six weeks, but Van Gaal was uncertain. "The human body has been made by God, not by me," he said.
Van Gaal admitted that United's disappointing start to the season has left him feeling "lousy".
United currently lie in 10th place in the Premier League with 13 points after 10 matches following last Sunday's derby defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
David Moyes, who was sacked in April, had 17 points following the same number of games in his brief tenure. It is also United's worst start to a league campaign since the 1986-87 season, pre-dating Alex Ferguson's tenure.
"It's not good enough. I feel myself very lousy and for the fans also," Van Gaal said. "Also the board, because they have a great belief in me and my staff. When you have 13 points after 10 matches, you are not doing well.
"We are in the process. When we won every game on tour in the United States, I said that the process shall take more than one year; it can be it takes three years. I hope, because that is always dependable on a lot of aspects, we shall make it happen that we shall win a lot of matches in a row.
"I have experience that people have great belief in what we are doing now, the way we are playing football. Because when I have been the streets I have been surrounded by very positive things.
"The belief is high, but I know of course I am feeling lousy that we only have 13 points out of 10 (games)."
Van Gaal acknowledged that the growing injury list at Old Trafford has hampered the implementation of his football philosophy.
"When I want to select the same line-up, I cannot," he added. "You cannot create consistency and that's important in football.
"But I don't want to complain or cry, because I have great belief in not only the players but the staff and the players and also the supporters who are supporting me."
When asked whether he would enter the transfer market for a defender in January, Van Gaal, who has been linked with Aston Villa's centre-back Ron Vlaar, said: "It is clear that a lot of things happen and you can judge better in good times than you can in bad times.
"Maybe you are right (about buying in January) but we have to see that.''
Van Gaal was giving little away about the potential make up of his back line for today's game.
However, it is likely that Michael Carrick will have to play at centre-back alongside teenager Paddy McNair or the equally inexperienced Tyler Blackett. (© Independent News Service)
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It's not his first skirmish with the poppy and it's unlikely to be the last, but at the very least, Irish international James McClean deserves respect and understanding for his decision to once again not wear the poppy.