Louis van Gaal’s team prepare for what looks like one of their easiest games on paper against a floundering Aston Villa on Saturday, boosted by the improving fitness of captain Wayne Rooney.


Louis van Gaal is expected to name Wayne Rooney in the starting lineup for the first time since the England captain’s knee injury at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland back in February. He will be expected to partner Marcus Rashford up front, flanked by Anthony Martial and Juan Mata from the left and right respectively. United academy graduate Jesse Lingard is another option Van Gaal has for the right wing position.

Rooney made a substitute appearance against West Ham in the FA Cup, where he helped his team to a much needed victory over the high-flying Hammers. Van Gaal spoke to Manchester United TV earlier this week and assured fans that Rooney remains a part of his plans for the rest of the season.

“He [Rooney] always wants to play,” the Manchester United manager said. “Yes, I think he shall receive more minutes but it’s always dependable on the game. You cannot say in advance that I give you 20 minutes or something like that; when it’s possible, I shall do that because we need Wayne in the team.”

At the centre of the park, Manchester United look set to miss Bastian Schweinsteiger yet again. The former Bayern Munich man has struggled with injuries ever since he made the switch to England from Germany in a move that raised quite a few eyebrows.

“I don’t think Schweinsteiger shall play this season – I think, next season, he is prepared,” said Van Gaal. “Maybe he is prepared for the European Championship, I cannot predict. It is possible, but then that is also in our favour because then he is fit for the new competition.”

Meanwhile, the Red Devils’ boss also had positive news regarding Luke Shaw. “Shaw is now training on the pitch with the physiotherapist, it’s not with a trainer-coach, so that’s the difference,” he added. “But he’s going great, it’s unbelievable.”

The real concern however, is over Ander Herrera, who seemed to be in fine form but is likely to miss out after picking up an injury against West Ham. It would be unwise to rush him back since Manchester United will have one eye on the midweek FA Cup clash against Crystal Palace to look forward to as well.

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“I don’t know yet for sure, he [Herrera] was injured, but the problem is that we have to recover again within two days,” said Van Gaal to MUTV. “That is a continuing problem, because we have to play so many matches when you are in so many competitions during this season, that is the only problem.”

Fosu-Mensah and Rashford to continue in Manchester United first team

With Herrera set to miss out, Schneiderlin will partner Carrick in the two-man central pivot, with Rooney, Martial and Mata ahead of them.

Adnan Janujaz, who scored the winner the last time these two teams met at Villa Park last year, is also set to miss out with an injury. In defence, the only notable injury concern is the talented Luke Shaw, who is recovering well and is yet to resume full training with the squad.

Academy product Timothy Fosu-Mensah will take his place in the Red Devils’ back four and will partner Daley Blind, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo in defence. For all of Van Gaal’s shortcomings, the Manchester United faithful will be delighted to see the involvement of youngsters like Fosu-Mensah, Rashford and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson in the first team.

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