Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is expected to be without four of his first-team stars for the Premier League clash against Arsenal on November 22. Radamel Falcao, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Rafael will not be available to start at the Emirates Stadium because of various injury problems.
The Guardian have revealed that the Red Devils’ quartet face a race against time to even make the substitutes’ bench in their first match after the international break. The injury-prone Falcao has a calf injury, Rafael a muscular complaint, Evans a foot problem, while Jones is still recovering from shin splints.
Van Gaal, who has struggled to deploy his first-choice line-up since arriving at Old Trafford in the summer, has admitted that none of the aforementioned players are likely to feature against the Gunners in less than two weeks’ time.
When asked if any of the four stars might return, Van Gaal responded: “No, I don’t think so because now some of them have already not played for five, six, seven weeks.
“They could sit on the bench because they can play 20 minutes but I cannot put a lot of players who are not 100% fit on the bench.
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“You saw what happened with [Paddy] McNair [getting cramp against Crystal Palace] because the rhythm of the game is very high in the Premier League.”
That Falcao will be unavailable to play against the Gunners will plunge the Colombia international’s future into further doubt. The world-class number nine, who is currently on a season-long loan from AS Monaco, last appeared for the Red Devils during the final 20 minutes of October’s 2-2 draw away at West Brom.
Since then he has missed key fixtures against Chelsea, Manchester City and Crystal Palace. Should he miss the Arsenal game, too, it may further tempt Van Gaal to scrap plans to turn the South American’s loan deal into a permanent transfer.
United’s defence also remains a major concern. Van Gaal has struggled to play the same back-four in consecutive matches because of a succession of injuries, and the veteran Dutch coach is expected to be without three of his first-choice defenders for the visit to Arsenal.
This could mean that the inexperienced McNair continues at the heart of United’s defence, potentially alongside Chris Smalling, who was sent off for a reckless sending off against Manchester City earlier this month.
Boost for Wenger
The news will, however, come as a major boost to the under-fire Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who will be desperately hoping to secure a morale-boosting victory over United to alleviate the growing pressure on his shoulders.