Football: Man United need new full-back urgently

United midfielder Ashley Young sitting injured before being substituted during the 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield last Sunday.
United midfielder Ashley Young sitting injured before being substituted during the 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield last Sunday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Young out for long term, other contenders for positions injured and rookies not an option

LONDON • Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has admitted that he is looking for reinforcements in the current transfer window after the club's full-back curse struck again.

The Dutchman revealed yesterday that Ashley Young has been ruled out for a "long time" after suffering a severe groin problem.

Young, a winger who has filled in at right- and left-back this season after a string of injuries, was forced off late in the first half of the Premier League victory at Liverpool on Sunday. Van Gaal told MUTV that Young needed surgery and that United could sign a full-back this month after being forced to use academy players in the position.

"I have started with (Antonio) Valencia, (Luke) Shaw, (Marcos) Rojo, (Matteo) Darmian and Young, sometimes, and they are all injured. Only Darmian is now back," van Gaal said. "So, I need full-backs and you have seen how I have used youngsters like (Cameron) Borthwick-Jackson and (Guillermo) Varela who are doing great but the level of Manchester United is high.

"The difficulty is... the clubs do not want to sell in this period and that is our problem. We are looking, but it is not so easy."

The United boss was less candid when talking about his future.

Earlier yesterday, United were forced to deny reports that club officials met Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola in Paris last week to discuss the possibility of him replacing van Gaal at Old Trafford.

A report in France Football on Thursday claimed that the meeting with the Spaniard took place at the Hotel Bristol in the eighth arrondissement of the French capital last week. However, a United spokesman insisted this was not true.

Guardiola announced in December he would be leaving Bayern at the end of the season and confirmed that, for his next job, he would like to manage a club in England. This has led to speculation that United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all interested in appointing him, with City believed to be the front runners.

"I don't think that the press have to help me with my decisions," van Gaal told a press conference yesterday ahead of Southampton's visit to Old Trafford today.

"First, they have sacked me. Now, they are interfering with my future. I don't have to answer."

Yet he will continue to be under pressure, unless United improve on their recent home record against Southampton.

Since Southampton's return to the top flight in 2012, United have beaten them only once in three attempts at Old Trafford, a 2-1 win three years ago this month.

Wayne Rooney scored both of United's goals that day and his current form has revitalised United's season. The United skipper has scored five goals in his last four games, including the winner at Anfield, which took United to within seven points of joint-leaders Arsenal and Leicester City.

Southampton were also victorious last weekend against West Bromwich Albion and the arrival of striker Charlie Austin from Queen Park Rangers has only added to the growing optimism at St Mary's.

Austin, 26, has joined the Saints in a £4 million (S$8.2 million) transfer and manager Ronald Koeman is set to hand the forward his debut at Old Trafford.

"His fitness is OK," the Dutchman said. "I was a little bit worried about his fitness, because he came out from a hamstring injury, but he showed his quality, he showed his fitness this week, and normally he will be part of the team for this Saturday."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN,AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'United need new full-back urgently'. Print Edition | Subscribe