Louis van Gaal has revealed Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney will make his comeback from injury in the club’s under-21 side next week.
Rooney has been sidelined for 11 games due to a knee injury and United manager van Gaal has opted not to rush him back to face Premier League title-chasing Tottenham on Sunday.
Instead, the 30-year-old striker will play for the reserve team against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford next Monday — 48 hours before United’s FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham.
“He is playing for the Under-21s and it’s going very well,” van Gaal told reporters on Friday.
“He has trained with us only two times, so not too much, so he has to build up his capacity in the Under-21 team.”
Having had up to 10 senior players injured at the same time earlier this season, United’s injury problems are clearing up with only Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw and Adnan Januzaj unavailable for the trip to White Hart Lane.
And van Gaal admits that has given him a more enjoyable selection headache to deal with in his squad.
“It makes my job more easy because I can select better, but it makes the time for my players a little bit more difficult,” he said.
“There was a time that I could not select only the fit players. Now with all the youngsters who have proved they are capable to play, with all the players who are coming back, now I have to select.
“I have a bigger squad. I have said also to my players you have to help your colleagues when they are not selected.
“Now a lot of players are not selected to play or are sitting on the bench.”
While second-placed Tottenham are chasing leaders Leicester in a bid to win the title for the first time since 1961, United are desperate to finish in the top four to secure Champions League football next season.
– Parking the bus –
They currently trail fourth-placed Manchester City by one point, which could be four by the time United go to London on Sunday.
However, United haven’t lost at Tottenham since 2001 and their record against the top sides in the Premier League this season is impressive – with five wins and three draws from nine games against the current top seven.
They have had costly slip-ups against lower-ranked teams, though, which van Gaal attributes to the way teams have played against United.
“We need creative players. Also more fast players, quick-thinking players. The lower teams are mostly parking the bus, as the English say,” he added.
“That’s more difficult. Top teams want to play against us, then we can play also. That’s the big difference. I have analysed it that way.”
After spending much of the season under seige from fans and former United players for his conservative tactics, van Gaal has weathered the storm and could still salvage his reputation by securing a top-four finish and winning the FA Cup.
“It’s not so interesting, my record. It’s interesting for the players that they have to win this game at this moment. We still have to close the gap of one point,” he said.
“We have to win and we are dependable on the results of our competitors. We have to win and I have to say every week that we must win. The pressure is our pressure.
“The pressure is also on Tottenham Hotspur now. They have to close the gap on Leicester City. It is the same position more or less as Manchester United at this time.”