Manchester United were dealt with a huge blow ahead of their Premier League clash with Leicester City at Old Trafford as talismanic midfielder Michael Carrick was ruled out for more than four weeks with a muscle rupture.
Earlier in the season, Carrick had suffered a damaged ankle ligament that saw him ruled out for more than 10 weeks. Carrick returned to action in the derby defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in November and has been in stellar form since then. While he has been forced to change position and slot in as a centre half on a couple of occasions, Uniteda s No.16 guided the team to an eleven game unbeaten run, winning eight of those games.
Interestingly, the Red Devils had managed just three wins in nine games prior to Carrick’s return. In fact when he made his first start of the season against Crystal Palace, the team had managed a meagre 13 points from the opening ten games and were ninth on the table.
In his absence, Dutch midfielder Daley Blind is slated to occupy the deep lying playmakera s role. Others vying for a berth in midfield include Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney, depending on what formation, Van Gaal chooses to employ.
Another intriguing question is that of record signing Angel Di Maria. The Argentine has played in a strikera s position in a couple of games, and struggled to make the impact that he was having at the start of the season. Against QPR, Di Maria was ineffective, until he was moved back into midfield where he came alive.
Van Gaal has a wealth of options up top, with James Wilson, Radamel Falcao and Robin Van Persie looking to book their spots. Nevertheless, none of the three have been able to perform at the level expected off of them and have been largely disappointing.
The good news for United fans, however, is that Ashley Young is set to return. While he may not start the match against Leicester City, who defeated United by 5 goals to 3 earlier in the season, he will definitely be a welcome addition on the bench, after being one of the cluba s star performers in that six game winning run towards the end of last year.