Radamel Falcao could start with Wayne Rooney to drop into midfield against Chelsea
Radamel Falcao could be given a final opportunity to prove he deserves to stay at Manchester United as Wayne Rooney is expected to drop back into midfield against Chelsea.
United manager Louis van Gaal has claimed both Daley Blind and Michael Carrick are injured and suggested he will have to ask Rooney to sacrifice himself for the team at Stamford Bridge.
Rooney has been in excellent form in his preferred striker role after Van Gaal experimented unconvincingly with him as a deep-lying playmaker. But with Phil Jones and Marcos Roja also struggling and Jonny Evans suspended, United’s defensive options are limited.
Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett are likely to deputise at the back, but the main beneficiary may well be Falcao.
The Colombian has failed to impress on his season’s loan from Monaco, but could yet find a way to force his way back into United’s long term plans, even though it is widely assumed they will not take up an option to sign him permanently in June.
An eye-catching display and, more importantly, goals against Chelsea is the only way Falcao can make a case for United to keep him, although he will argue a poor record of four goals in 15 starts is also down to the fact he had to recover from a serious knee injury, as well as adapt to English football.
“We have four injuries who played the last match, so that’s not so good for us,” said van Gaal, who is also likely to give Luke Shaw his first start since the FA Cup defeat by Arsenal last month. “We had very good hope that we should recover two of the four, but it’s not like that.
"Carrick is out and Rojo is out, but also Blind and Jones. That’s the worst scenario because Rojo and Jones are good players at the left central defender position. Evans is suspended, so we don’t have many choices.
“Blind and Carrick could play the midfield holding position and I don’t have any other option, or I have to play Wayne Rooney in that position again. I have to puzzle a lot.”
Van Gaal has said United can still win the title if they beat Chelsea, although he maintains all they can really do is put “pressure on their shoulders” given they trail Jose Mourinho’s side by eight points .
“I cannot say it’s not possible,” he added. "But it’s not logical. It’s more when and if, and I don’t believe in when and if. I believe in facts. The fact is that we are behind Chelsea.”
Van Gaal is looking forward to facing Mourinho again, who worked as his assistant at Barcelona and revealed his current number two, Ryan Giggs is showing signs he will also develop into a top manager.
“I have to admit that I could not imagine when I spoke with him (Giggs) in May or June to ask him to be my assistant manager and we spoke about how we saw it, that he works very hard.
“As an ex-player, you are not used to working very hard and he is a very hard worker, and he reads the game very well like Jose. But to manage a group you have to work, and what I can see is that he’s learning quickly.”