McClaren is grappling with a “crazy” defensive crisis at St James’s Park.
Newcastle’s head coach doesn’t have a recognised left-back for this afternoon’s home game against West Bromwich Albion.
Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara are both sidelined with injuries, while Jack Colback, able to deputise at full-back, is also in the treatment room.
United attempted to sign Guilherme Siqueira and Lucas Orban on loan from Valencia and Atletico Madrid respectively last week, but the pair moved elsewhere.
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And McClaren says the Magpies looked at other targets when questioned over Newcastle’s failure to sign much-needed defensive cover.
“It certainly wasn’t through a lack of effort and wanting,” said McClaren.
“Going out there and seeing suitability, not being available. But believe you, me, in terms of centre-back we had four.
“Priorities were elsewhere. We were always looking for a left-back, as cover, short-term.
“Believe you, me, I think five or six were tried at the weekend but for various reasons it didn’t work out for us.
“Dummett had trained for five or six games, Haidara could possibly be right for Stoke (on March 2).
“We’ll have that 18-day break to get people back into the squad. It wasn’t the case to think we’d get three injuries in one game. That’s crazy.”
McClaren could again field winger Rolando Aarons – who conceded a late penalty in Wednesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park – at left-back.
“I can’t sit here and be positive about the injury list and I can’t sit here and be positive about losing three defenders and all that happened on Wednesday,” said McClaren.
“You generally try to keep upbeat, but it’s difficult with the amount of injuries. The only thing to be positive about is that in three weeks we’ve got about five important players coming back.”
Meanwhile, midfielder Cheick Tiote is back in McClaren’s squad after the breakdown of his proposed move to Shanghai Shenhua.
McClaren said: “He’s come back fighting and lively, and has been his usual Cheicky, which is good.”