Sir Alex Ferguson's team began the season against Everton with only one fit centre-back in the form of Nemanja Vidic. Even with seven Premier League games already over, United have only two fit centre-backs: Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand.
At different points in the campaign, United have had players such as Wayne Rooney, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young out with injury or illness.
On the Road to Recovery
In the two weeks before the international break, we saw Rooney return from the gash on his thigh, Evans recover from a dead leg and Valencia shrug off an impact injury to his leg. In addition, Carrick and Giggs overcame the virus that had kept them out of the Champions League game against Cluj. Fletcher too has make a gradual comeback from his chronic health issues.
There is no doubt that the return of these players has added a lot of quality to United's squad and allowed Sir Alex more options in selection.
It is probably no coincidence that United's best performance this season came against Newcastle in the last game when the squad has had the least injury problems at any point in the season.
The Recovering Trio
In the context of these injury problems, the international break has come as a welcome relief to the Red Devils. The two-week absence of fixtures has allowed injured players to progress in their fight back to fitness without missing out on important games.
Chris Smalling last played for United in the last home game of last season against Stoke.
He picked up a serious groin injury in the game, ending his hopes of going to Euro 2012. He received a setback in his recovery when he broke his foot in training in July. However, Smalling did return to full training last week. Ferguson fully expects him to be involved in the squad against Stoke next Saturday and provide much-needed backup to the incumbent pairing of Evans and Ferdinand.
Ashley Young suffered a knee injury due to a horrible tackle in the game against Fulham in the season's second match. However, the winger should be ready for a comeback against Stoke, having returned to full football training.
In a season where United's wingers have been incredibly inconsistent (especially Nani), Young's return will give Ferguson a greater choice of wingers to pick from. More importantly, the extra competition after his return will spur all the wingers in the squad to perform better in the forthcoming games.
To complete the recovering trio, Phil Jones is also on track to come back into the squad by the time the game against Arsenal comes around on 3 November. With Jones back, United will have extra options both in defense and in midfield—a possibility which will be music to the years of the Manchester United's manager and fans.
Necessity of the Squad
The bolstering of ranks becomes even more essential in the next few weeks, considering the number of fixtures United are scheduled to play over the course of the next couple of months. The schedule includes four games in 11 days in October, a further seven games in November and another seven games (possibly eight, if United progress in the League Cup) in December.
With games coming thick and fast, Sir Alex Ferguson's ability to rotate his players would be tested to its extreme.
Some of these games are against United's direct domestic rivals for the title. Others are all-important Champions League clashes. In such a situation, the opportunity given to the club's injured players to recover without missing games has proved to be a boon for the Old Trafford Club.
Normally, all United fans await the results of international matches with bated breath, hoping that none of their players get injured while away on international duty.
However, if all the players who are currently away come through the midweek round of games unscathed, everyone related to the club may well be thanking the international break for the first time ever, simply because of the recovery time it allows injured players.