Manchester United dealt huge blow with Wayne Rooney set to be out for six weeks
Published 17/02/2016 | 16:41
Manchester United's troubled season suffered another blow on Wednesday with the news captain Wayne Rooney faces six weeks out with a knee injury.
United announced on Wednesday morning Rooney was not a part of their squad for Thursday's Europa League last-32 first leg at FC Midtjylland.
And Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal subsequently confirmed at his pre-match press conference in Denmark that a knee injury sustained in Saturday's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Sunderland was the reason.
He would not put a timeframe on Rooney's absence, but Press Association Sport understands the England striker is set to be out for around six weeks.
Rooney completed the full duration of the Sunderland match, and Van Gaal said: "That's typical Wayne.
"He's a guy who wants to go until the end - if he's feeling pain he doesn't want to go off. He wants to win.
"That's a fantastic attitude but sometimes it's also bad for his body.
"But you cannot say (if he made the injury worse by staying on) because he didn't know when (exactly) it happened. That's the difficulty."
Van Gaal stressed United will simply "have to cope" after an injury that takes the club's list of unavailable senior players to 12 - a situation he described as "ridiculous".
But the loss of Rooney - as well as a worry to England as they continue to prepare for Euro 2016 - would appear a major setback for the Dutchman at a time when his side are struggling in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League and his position is under increasing scrutiny.
Rooney, with 14 goals in all competitions, is United's top scorer this season and has netted seven times in his last nine matches.
The squad - also shorn in the last few days of the services of defenders Matteo Darmian (shoulder) and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (illness) and midfielder Marouane Fellaini (muscle injury) - now looks severely limited in terms of out-and-out striker options.
But when asked on Wednesday if he had any regrets about not signing any strikers beyond Anthony Martial or hanging on to ones he had let go like Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, Van Gaal insisted he did not.
The 64-year-old said: "Our policy is that we didn't want a big squad, because otherwise you can't try youngsters in your team. And normally you don't have so many injuries."
While making reference to the options he does have available up front - primarily Martial - Van Gaal did mention Will Keane, the 23-year-old striker who recently scored five times in a United Under-21 game.
Keane is among several inexperienced player included in the squad for the Midtjylland fixture, along with Donald Love, Regan Poole, Joe Riley and James Weir.
Van Gaal has admitted that winning the Europa League is now looking United's most viable route into the Champions League.
But he is not underestimating the challenge posed by the tie against Danish champions Midtjylland, who beat Southampton in the Europa League play-offs in August.
"We must not forget we have to beat Midtjylland and they are also a very good team, who play in a very difficult shape for us, 4-1-4-1," Van Gaal said.
"It is not so easy, and the circumstances are also not so easy - I have seen the pitch and it is smaller than usual. So it will not be so easy to beat Midtjylland here."
Meanwhile, Van Gaal has expressed his sympathy for United fans with regard to the price of tickets for Thursday's contest.
Fans are being charged £71 each to watch the match at the 11,800-capacity MCH Arena in Herning and United supporters are planning a protest against the cost during the game.
Southampton fans were charged just £22 when their team played at the same venue.
Van Gaal said: ''It is a big difference, from what I have heard, between the price of the game against Southampton and this one.
''It shows you that Manchester United is a big team in this world, but this is a lot.
''So I have very much sympathy with the United fans.''