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Saturday 10 December 2016

'i might throw rooney in at the deep end'

LVG forced to shuffle pack for Bridge clash

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 has the option of bringing 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 by Vincent Kompany 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 again in that position."

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 for us," he said.

"But other players can take profit."

Rooney's spell in midfield was successful at times. Against Newcastle on Boxing Day, he scored two goals arriving late in the box just as Paul Scholes did on so many occasions for the club.

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 lay-off.

"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.

Saturday'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 this evening.

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 does Arsenal so we can lay pressure on Chelsea's shoulders (on Saturday), that's true and then you never know.

"You have seen that also in previous Premier League seasons so 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 the Dutchman was full of praise for the way the Welshman has helped him during his first year at the helm.

"I have to admit, I could not imagine when I spoke with him in May, that he would work so very 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 good, like Jose. But to manage a group you have to learn. What I can see is that he is also learning quickly."

Given that Chelsea have a match in hand on their rivals, and that United are eight points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool, a draw would not be the worst result for either manager.

"They are playing at home, but I think that Chelsea is satisfied with a draw," Van Gaal said.

"But of course they want to win also to beat Manchester United and we want to beat them."

ends

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