Manchester United will be without the services of several key players as they gear up to travel to the Britannia stadium to take on mid-table Stoke City in the early kick off on Boxing Day.

German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger is unavailable for the match against the Potters as he serves out the remainder of his 3-match ban for violent conduct against West Ham’s Winston Reid. Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Jese Lingard and Marcos Rojo will also miss out against Stoke City on account of injuries.

However, in some good news for the embattled Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, Italian right-back Matteo Darmian is expected to return to first team action against Chelsea on December 28. Darmian injured his hamstring during Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat to German club Wolfsburg which eventually resulted in their early exit from Europe’s premier football competition.

Darmian close to a return: Van Gaal

Speaking to the club’s official website MUTV (Manchester United TV) ahead of his team’s clash against Stoke, manager Louis van Gaal provided an injury update on his squad.

“I think Matteo Darmian shall come [back] next week [to first-team training] and then maybe already against Chelsea” said Van Gaal (via IBTimes). “We have to see that”.

“But of course, we have injuries that take a long time for example Shaw, Valencia and Rojo and you cannot change that.”

Van Gaal also gave an update on the returning Phil Jones, saying, “It’s more or less the same, so there is no difference. Only that, for example, Phil Jones has played 90 minutes and had no reaction so that’s a good signal.”

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Following his interview to MUTV, Van Gaal met the media and staged a walk-out 5 mins into his press conference after being questioned repeatedly on his future at the club.