Injuries may open door for Depay

Memphis Depay (right), with Wayne Rooney in training in September, has a chance to be in the starting XI in the game against Watford.
Memphis Depay (right), with Wayne Rooney in training in September, has a chance to be in the starting XI in the game against Watford. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Louis van Gaal is facing a "big problem" from a selection crisis for Manchester United's Premier League trip to Watford today.

Captain Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini are all unavailable owing to illness and injury, joining fellow absentees Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw.

Following England's 2-0 victory over France at Wembley on Tuesday evening, Rooney became ill while Martial has a foot injury, leaving the manager with a shortage of choices to lead United's attack.

That means there could be a place for Memphis Depay, who has not started a league game since Oct 4 because of a dip in form, and 19-year-old James Wilson, who has played only eight minutes in the league this season.

"Rooney came back ill after the break. I have only seen him once, the day after the internationals, and then he was at home. I don't think he can play," van Gaal told a press conference yesterday.

He also suggested that Martial may be fit for Wednesday's Champions League match against PSV Eindhoven, saying: "It's not so long (for him). It's a matter of time.

"Maybe he could have played tomorrow (Saturday).

Van Gaal could also have a selection dilemma in midfield. France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is available but he plans to further assess him and German international Bastian Schweinsteiger before deciding whether he can select them.

He has spoken to both players, as well as Martial, about last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

The trio took part in France's friendly against Germany last Friday that was overshadowed by several explosions outside the Stade de France .

"What they have told me is private, I think, but we have communicated about it," said the Dutchman.

"I think it is, for every human being in this world, a big blow, so I don't think I have to mention what our discussions were."

No matter the personnel, how van Gaal sets his side up today will not go unnoticed. He has already been repeatedly criticised for his team's lack of attacking spark and patient style of play.

United's most impressive statistics at the moment are defensive. They have conceded just eight goals in 12 league games - the best record in the division - and kept eight clean sheets along the way.

But with only 17 league goals to their name this season, United still lag behind the top flight's leading lights when it comes to putting the ball in the net. Of the top four teams, they have scored the fewest.

Leicester, who are third, have 25, Arsenal 22, and City 26. Tottenham (20), West Ham (23), Southampton (19) and Everton (20) have all scored more than United.

Vicarage Road is not the easiest ground for them to add to their haul either, with Watford conceding just four goals at home this season. Only United (one) have let in fewer goals at home.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Injuries may open door for Depay'. Print Edition | Subscribe