20/11/2014 12:35 GMT | Updated 20/01/2015 05:59 GMT

Six Short-Term January Options That Could Help Ease Manchester United's Never-Ending Injury Crisis

Out of contract in the summer and therefore likely to be available on cut-price deals in January, here's a look at six short term options for van Gaal and United - any of which could be valuable assets over the next couple of years.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has had to contend with all sorts of selection headaches thanks to a never-ending injury crisis that has equated to an average of a fresh problem every three days since he arrived.

The veteran Dutchman has already bemoaned the fact that he is never able to pick the same team twice and is praying for a change of luck. But, such has been the nature of the niggling problems throughout the team it seems unlikely that the rest of the season will be much different.

The summer will be a crucial time to rectify some deep rooted fitness issues, as well as bring in more marquee signings, but for now short term pragmatism must prevail. United have a core of real quality, but need one or two acquisitions to add extra cover and depth.

Out of contract in the summer and therefore likely to be available on cut-price deals in January, here's a look at six short term options for van Gaal and United - any of which could be valuable assets over the next couple of years.

6. Christian Maggio

Despite a good start to the campaign, Rafael has fallen foul of recurring fitness problems this season, leaving United very short at right-back. Napoli's Christian Maggio could be a good short term fix, having been arguably the best full-back in Italy as recently as two seasons ago.

Formerly an attacking wing-back at his very best, the 32-year-old has slowed down a little of late, but is still a capable individual. A fresh challenge could now be what he needs to spark a positive twilight to his career.

5. Stephan Lichtsteiner

Another option to strengthen at right-back could be Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner. The 30-year-old Swiss international has been a vital part of the side that has won three straight Serie A titles since the 2011/12 campaign and his experience would be an excellent addition to the United back-line.

He's a reliable defender who gets forward well and always plays with passion, as demonstrated by his performances at the 2014 World Cup. Lichtsteiner has played in Italy since 2008 and France before that, so a move to England and the Premier League could round off an excellent career.

4. Winston Reid

United's problems at centre-back have been well documented of late, with a different partnership each game. Until the last 12 months, Winston Reid has rather flown under the radar when it comes to identifying the Premier League's top defenders, but West Ham's excellent form this season has helped earn him the credit he deserves.

A disciplined defender, the New Zealand international is strong in the air, quick across the ground and reads the game well. He may not necessarily be destined for the very top of the game, but at just 26 he still has potential to improve and could provide worthy cover for several years.

3. Nigel de Jong

Injuries to Daley Blind, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera have highlighted a potential frailty in the centre of midfield, where real strength of character is needed.

Kevin Strootman is van Gaal's long term target, but while the Roma star is still working his way back to full match sharpness after a knee injury, the tenacious presence of Nigel de Jong offers a more immediate option.

De Jong was a rumoured target in the summer and even though he has a history with cross-town rivals Manchester City, has successfully worked with van Gaal before - as recently as this past summer at the World Cup.

2. Dani Alves

Barcelona's Dani Alves earned a reputation as the best full-back in world football during the Catalan club's period of total dominance both at home and in Europe.

As a result, he now has clubs queuing up to take him and although wage demands could be quite high, United are thought to be near the front.

Now 31 years of age, Alves' best days are probably just behind him, but he still has the pace and the attacking nous to hurt teams going forward.

Defensively, he's never been top class, but that same pace which is such a dangerous offensive weapon still keeps him on top going back towards his own goal too.

1. Ron Vlaar

United's defence is crying out for an experienced leader who is strong in the air and excellent at covering and making tackles.

Ron Vlaar is a name that has long been mentioned as a target and his potential arrival would be reminiscent of what Henning Berg brought to the table when he signed for the club in 1997.

The 29-year-old Aston Villa captain struggled with injury himself during September and early October, but has now made a return to action. If he can prove his fitness in the weeks leading up to January, Vlaar could be the defensive rock for United that he was for van Gaal's 3rd placed Netherlands team at the World Cup.

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