A shockingly mundane performance handed Manchester United a defeat to Southampton at home in their last Premier League outing. The Red Devils created absolutely nothing before slapped with a late header from substitute Charlie Austin. But, a much improved showing saw van Gaal’s men made it to the fifth round of the FA Cup defeating Derby 3-1. One of the major positives of that match was Wayne Rooney’s return to form. 6 goals in his last 6 appearances and a stunning strike against Derby has finally managed to prove all his doubters wrong, atleast for the time being.
A poor display at the Britannia Stadium in the last league outing ended in a 2-0 loss to Stoke on Boxing Day. 5 points adrift of the 4th place, tonight’s fixture remains a must win for van Gaal and his boys. Stoke also have not been enjoying a great time off late either. Defeats to West Brom and Leicester were followed by a Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Liverpool.
That means van Gaal and his boys will look to get their top four fight back on track and United boss might choose his side accordingly to pull out a comprehensive victory at Old Trafford.
Goalkeeper: Once again David de Gea will start between the sticks tonight looking for a cleansheet.
Defence: Matteo Darmian has included his name recently in the ever-growing list of injured full-backs after being forced to leave the field against Southampton last weekend and the Italian is not expected to return soon enough. With Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Phil Jones also sidelined, Louis van Gaal is expected to keep his faith on Guillermo Varela at right-back yet again after he put in an impressive display against Derby on Friday night.
The Dutch manager also has concerns on the left side of defence as Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo out with long-term injuries, it means Cameron Borthwick-Jackson will keep his place in the first eleven while Daley Blind to continue alongside Chris Smalling in the heart of defence.
Midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger will be out of action for another month with a knee injury but Michael Carrick made his return against Derby so he is favourite to start alongside Morgan Schneiderlin, while expected to be Marouane Fellaini dropped to the bench. The veteran French midfielder has been really impressive for Manchester United till now this season. Despite not able to control the midfield in every match, he gives a much needed layer of protection. He has also displayed some important interceptions and his pass percentage remains very high which adjusts perfectly for a squad like United playing a possession game.
Attack: Juan Mata was recalled to the United starting eleven for the FA Cup fixture and the Spaniard will keep his place after getting his name on the score-sheet in the 3-1 victory. The Dutch manager will most likely bring back Ander Herrera in to the side in place of Jesse Lingard with Anthony Martial yet again expected to support Wayne Rooney in attack. Martial was certainly a constant threat at Pride Park against Derby and also laid on the goals for Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, earning praise from his manager, who called the French attacker’s performance “fabulous”.
De Gea; Varela, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Depay, Mata, Martial; Rooney.