MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admits Luke Shaw faces a long recovery process as the England defender aims to return to fitness after his horrendous leg break.
Shaw suffered a double fracture of his right leg during United's Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven in midweek, a gruesome injury that dominated the headlines of another trying week for Van Gaal's club.
The Dutchman spoke with the left-back on Thursday, following his initial surgery straight after the game on Tuesday, and was expecting to see him back in Manchester over the weekend, although Van Gaal warned his young star to brace himself for a long period of rehabilitation.
"I called him last night," said Van Gaal at his Friday press briefing.
"He sounds very strong which is amazing to me, a big surprise, but a good signal.
"But he knows also that it is a long way to go and it is not easy. His family is there, we sent people to him and when he comes back we have everything prepared.
"Maybe he will come back tomorrow and then he will have to go through a long period of rehabilitation. He still has a long way to go."
The loss of Shaw came at a particularly disappointing time for United, with the England defender having started the season so impressively after a difficult initial 12 months at Old Trafford.
Now, Van Gaal concedes United must start again in their plan to build a strong left-side of the field involving new signing Memphis Depay.
Dutch international Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and even winger Ashley Young will all be in contention for Shaw's position.
"I'm always saying about the total human being principle," he said. "It is not only physical but mental.
"It is a big loss for us, also for the team. I said in advance already it will be the season of Luke Shaw and now it's finished nearly.
"He started so well, we built up a left wing with Depay and Shaw, but we have to start filling it again and it is not easy.
"But we have to do it. We have to cope with it, but it is a big loss.
"Shaw is the line-up player and it is very difficult to replace him when he is in such a good shape. But in Blind, Rojo and Young, we have good replacements."
Van Gaal also admitted that the form of new signing Anthony Martial has forced him to re-assess how the French striker will be allowed to develop at Old Trafford this season.
Signed for a down payment of £36.8 million (S$80 million) from Monaco during the transfer window, Martial was expected to play a small role in United's campaign, with Van Gaal openly talking of him being a signing for the future.
However, Martial marked his debut against Liverpool last weekend with a superb goal and Van Gaal believes the teenager has a key role to play immediately.
"When I say he is for the future, it is because of the fact that a 19-year-old is not fully developed," he said.
"That doesn't mean I won't count on him in certain games. I just have to judge every week whether I use him or not.
"It depends on the possibilities that I have."