Belfast Telegraph

Luke Shaw faces long road back to the top, admits Van

Candid Man United boss rues defender's leg break but insists he has quality replacements to step in

By Paul Hirst

Luke Shaw could return to England today, but Louis van Gaal has told the Manchester United defender that he faces a tough physical and mental battle to return to peak form.

The left-back broke his right leg in two places during United's 2-1 defeat to PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday night following a sliding tackle by Hector Moreno.

The 20-year-old had an operation at the St Anna Ziekenhuis hospital on the night of the game and has stayed there since to continue his recovery.

After three days' treatment, he looks set to return to Manchester this weekend.

The United manager said: "His family is there, we have sent people with him and he will come back when he is prepared. Maybe Saturday.''

Shaw left the pitch at the Philips Stadion on a stretcher while receiving oxygen.

The former Southampton star was in tears at the time, but is now in better spirits, according to his manager.

"I called him last night (Thursday),'' Van Gaal said. "He sounds very strong, which was amazing for me - a big surprise.

"It is a good signal, but he knows he has a long way to go and it is not easy. He will have a long period of rehabilitation (when he is back) and he has a long way to go.''

Van Gaal said after the Champions League group stage match that Shaw could return in March.

The Dutchman believes it will be a tough challenge for him to reach the kind of form that made him one of the best players in the team so far this season

"It is not only physical but mental,'' Van Gaal said.

"For us it is a big loss, as a team. I said (in pre-season) this will be the season of Luke Shaw but now it is nearly finished.

"He started so well and built up a left-wing relationship with (Memphis) Depay, but now we have to start filling the position again and it is not easy.''

As well as Van Gaal, England manager Roy Hodgson is understood to have been in regular contact with Shaw during his stay at the hospital.

Shaw had earned a regular starting place in Hodgson's first team after putting his injury troubles behind him at the start of the campaign.

Van Gaal is hopeful United will be able to survive without him.

"We have to cope with it but it is a big loss for us,'' he said.

"It is not a problem but Shaw is the player in the starting line-up and it is very difficult to replace him when he is in such a good shape.

"In (Daley) Blind, (Marcos) Rojo and (Ashley) Young, we have good replacements.''

Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, has been passed fit for United's game at Shaw's old club Southampton tomorrow after recovering from a hamstring problem that has sidelined him for the last two games, that Champions League game against PSV and the derby clash against Liverpool last weekend.

"He is back, it was a minor injury problem and we didn't want to take risks, but he has had training and treatment and I think he can start,'' the United manager added.

Van Gaal declined to speak at length about his relationship with the manager who will be in the home dugout tomorrow.

Van Gaal fell out with Ronald Koeman when they were both at Ajax in 2004.

Koeman, who was manager at the time, felt Van Gaal was too intrusive while technical director at the club.

Their relationship broke down and Van Gaal resigned a year after taking the post. The pair shook hands when their teams played each other last year, but it is clear that an uneasy relationship exists between the two Dutch managers.

The Saints boss said yesterday that he was happy to invite Van Gaal into his office for a glass of wine after the match, even though he claimed the former Barcelona manager snubbed the same offer last season.

When asked about Koeman's offer, Van Gaal said: "Thank you for the invitation.''

Belfast Telegraph


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