Ahead of the crunchy tie between Manchester United and their arch-rivals Liverpool this weekend, reports have confirmed that the Red Devils will be without Chris Smalling in the defence. The former Fulham man has been one of the most consistent for the club this season and except for the match against city rivals, Manchester City where he allowed exuberance to mare what could have been a great game. The Red Devils eventually lost the game after Smalling had been expelled but other than that, the defender has been quite enterprising in the other games.
It was however disheartening when he was substituted during the match against Southampton after he appeared to be in some sort of excruciating pain. His removal after playing for barely 20 minutes uttered the game plans of Louis van Gaal who had to shove in Jonny Evans who has just returned from a long injury spell and had not even attained match fitness. His inclusion made the visitors defence look frailer than it probably is and the Saints made dashing runs at Evans each time he had the ball.
As much as the fans and coaching staff would like to concentrate on the on-going match, they could not but cast their minds back to the Smalling case knowing ful well how sorely he will be missed in their next game where they will be facing Brendan Rodgers’s men. Reports from the Mirror have claimed that results from the scan carried out show that the England defender suffered a minor groin tear and further claimed that the injury might keep him out for at least two weeks – which means he will be unavailable for the game against Liverpool and the trip to Villa Park. However, if the recovery process is quicker, he might be fit in time to face hard fighters, Newcastle on Boxing-day but the fact that he won’t be up for selection against the Merseyside giants has dealt Louis van Gaal a huge blow.
Since his arrival at the club, Louis van Gaal has had to endure about 43 injury cases most of which affected the defence section. In fact at the moment, Rafael, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones and now Chris Smalling are out of action due to injuries and even Jonny Evans that had to be forced on against the Saints glaringly showed that he still has a lot to do if he is to contribute significantly against Liverpool by the weekend.
With the status quo in the defence, unless the coaching staff feels that Jonny Evans is fit enough, Michael Carrick might have to assume back defensive duties in the interim to partner Marcos Rojo at the centre-back position. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young will retain the full-back/wing-back positions. In the midfield, depending on what the manager decides, Ander Herrera and Maroaune Fellaini will play in a deeper role with either of Darren Fletcher or Angel Di Maria completing the trio. In the attack, it will most likely be the combination of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata except Louis van Gaal decides to hand Radamel Falcao a start.
On the overall, Manchester United will still be able to parade a solid team thereby paving the way for their sixth consecutive wins.