Belfast Telegraph

Roo could rescue Van Gaal after quadruple injury blow

By Paul Hirst

Louis van Gaal is considering playing Wayne Rooney as a holding midfielder against Chelsea after Manchester United were hit by an injury crisis.

United's chances of eating into the lead of the Premier League leaders took a blow after Van Gaal revealed on the eve of the trip to Stamford Bridge that a number of his first-team players were unavailable.

Defenders Marcos Rojo (adductor), Phil Jones (ankle) and Jonny Evans (suspension) are all out, but luckily for the Dutchman, he can bring in either Paddy McNair or Tyler Blackett to play alongside Chris Smalling.

He has no such luxury when it comes to replacements for the vacant holding midfield role.

Daley Blind has not recovered from a kick to the ankle in last weekend's Manchester derby and Michael Carrick has not overcome the calf problem he sustained in the 4-2 win.

That means Rooney could have to drop back into the deep midfield position where he was controversially placed earlier this season.

"I don't have many choices," Van Gaal said. "Blind and Carrick could play in the holding midfield position, and I don't have another option or I have to play Wayne Rooney there again."

Injuries hindered United's progress in the early stages of the campaign, and although the club are almost certain to finish in the top four after a recent run of six straight wins, a lengthy absentee list is something Van Gaal could have done without.

"It's the worst scenario," he said. "But other players can profit."

Rooney's spell in midfield was successful at times. Against Newcastle on Boxing Day, he scored two goals arriving late in the box.

But the United captain has scored five times since moving back up front at the end of February and Van Gaal is short of effective replacements in attack.

Radamel Falcao is short of confidence so Robin van Persie may come into the team following his two-month ankle injury.

"This is the first week he's trained with the first team, but maybe we have to think about him," Van Gaal said about his fellow Dutchman.

Today's meeting will see Van Gaal reunited with his old protege Jose Mourinho.

The United boss gave Mourinho his first big break in football by appointing him as a member of his coaching staff at Barcelona.

Almost 20 years on, it is Mourinho who is performing better than his former mentor.

Chelsea will be 11 points clear of United with a match in hand if they win.

Van Gaal thinks his team will find it incredibly hard to catch the Blues in the last six matches of the campaign.

"It is possible, but it is not logical," Van Gaal said. "I believe in facts and the fact is that we are behind Chelsea.

"All right we have to play against them, so do Arsenal so we can lay pressure on Chelsea's shoulders, and then you never know. It is always possible, but it is not logical."

Van Gaal stopped short of saying he is predicting a similar career path to Mourinho for his current assistant Ryan Giggs, but he was full of praise for the Welshman.

"I could not imagine when I spoke with him in May that he would work so hard," Van Gaal said. "As an ex-player, you are not used to working hard. He is a very hard worker.

"He reads the game very well, like Jose. But to manage a group you have to learn. He is also learning quickly."

Belfast Telegraph


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