Man Utd v Hull
Louis van Gaal has warned striker Robin van Persie he will have to fight for his place as the Manchester United manager prepares to welcome Radamel Falcao back to his squad.
Van Gaal is hoping the injury-hit Colombian can finally display the qualities that have made him one of the most feared strikers in world football — especially important for United with Van Persie struggling for form.
Falcao’s loan spell at Old Trafford has been disrupted by injuries but Van Gaal is hopeful he will be in the squad for the visit of Hull today.
Asked if Falcao’s return would increase the pressure on Van Persie, who was substituted against his former club Arsenal last weekend having had just 13 touches of the ball, Van Gaal said: “Every player in my selection has to fight for his position and I shall always take the best of the players and it must also be suitable for the mix of players. So it is also an obligation of a player that he does that.”
Asked if he felt confident that Falcao can start to live up to his potential, the United boss added: “I hope so because we have him on loan because of that.”
It is not just Falcao poised to provide a huge boost for United, but Argentina defender Marcos Rojo is also in contention after being out with a shoulder injury.
Van Gaal said he was happy that United were in the top four despite their injury problems and having played some heavyweight opposition in recent games.
“When you see how our preparation was, how many injuries, then it was a very big test and after the heavy opponents we are still fourth, so I’m happy,” said Van Gaal.
“But we have to be at least fourth at the end of the league and not now. Now is not so important. We have to improve our playing style and beat our opponents more easily.”
Van Gaal was also careful to provide an exact statement on England full-back Luke Shaw, who suffered an ankle injury against the Gunners.
A week ago the United manager’s comments on Daley Blind’s knee problem were misinterpreted and led to the club’s 3.5million Twitter followers being erroneously advised the Dutch player was out for six months.
Van Gaal said: “Last time I have said something and it was not interpreted so good so I have asked my medical advisor and maybe Manchester United Twitter account can pay attention to it!”
The United manager then read from a prepared statement saying: “Luke sustained an ankle ligament injury but with no serious complications and he will be out for the next few weeks because of this.”
He then added: “I have said also with Daley Blind it will not be six months.”
Phil Jones (shin), Jonny Evans (ankle) and Rafael (hamstring) are all still out injured.
Meanwhile Hull boss Steve Bruce will mark his 700th match in football management with a timely trip to Old Trafford and says experience has taught him not to panic about the Tigers’ recent plight.
Former United star Bruce — who was first appointed player-boss at Sheffield United in 1998 — said: “I genuinely haven’t looked at January yet — I’m happy with the squad we’ve got. We made big changes in the summer and some of those players are just starting to bed in and I’m sure we will get better as the season goes on.
“It’s all about doing all you can to keep the squad as good as it can be. Of course when you get beaten a few times the doubts creep in but you’ve got to keep everybody positive.
“There’s not a lot wrong and we’ve just got to stay with it. We’ve got a really difficult run of games and now we’re coming to a really critical part of the season.”
Bruce has yet to earn three points at Old Trafford in his managerial career.
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