Louis van Gaal has admitted Manchester United will face a striker shortage in Saturday’s clash at Watford with Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Marouane Fellaini all ruled out.
Rooney has added to United’s lack of options for the game at Vicarage Road by returning from international duty with England ill, and joins France striker Martial (foot) and Belgium utility player Fellaini (calf) on the sidelines.
Van Gaal spoke to Rooney after he returned from playing for England in Tuesday’s friendly at Wembley against France but has since been confined to his home.
“He has been ill and I don’t think he can play,” the United manager told Friday’s press conference ahead of the trip to Hertfordshire.
Martial left Wembley on crutches and has a knock on his foot and won’t be travelling either, although both players could return for the Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
Van Gaal said: “It is not so heavy as everybody has written but they cannot play against Watford. Maybe PSV for Martial. It’s not certain and I think Rooney may also play then because illness is not something of many days.”
James Wilson could be an answer to Van Gaal, although the United boss has labelled the Academy product “not fit enough” and suffering from a “lack of match rhythm” to complete 90 minutes – which could all mean a recall in a central striking role for Memphis Depay against the Hornets.
Fellaini’s absence certainly comes as unwelcome news to the United boss, who added: “I think that everybody knows Michael Carrick and Anthony Martial are injured, but also injured is Fellaini. That’s a surprise because I thought he was recovered after the international break, but still he is injured. And that’s a big blow because Rooney is ill, so we have a big problem, I think.”
In midfield Van Gaal also faces potential problems with Michael Carrick ruled out with the ankle injury he sustained playing for England against Spain in the friendly against Alicante last Friday night.
However, the 34-year-old’s problem is not a long-term one.
“The injury is not a heavy one. He shall play much quicker than everyone has written,” Van Gaal said.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger are fit but Van Gaal wants to judge their mental state after both played in the Paris friendly between France and German during last Friday’s terrorist attack in the French capital and on the Stade de France.