Rafael blow for Manchester United
Published 24/04/2015 | 16:06
Manchester United right-back Rafael will miss the rest of the season with a rib injury, manager Louis van Gaal has said.
Rafael came off during an Under-21 game against Leicester on Monday after an aerial collision with Anthony Knockaert.
And Van Gaal told MUTV on Friday that the player will miss the final five games of the campaign.
Van Gaal said of the setback: "It's unbelievable.
"He has broken his ribs so he shall not play any more this season for Manchester United. It's very unfortunate."
In truth, the news about Rafael is not such a big blow for Van Gaal.
The Brazilian has not started a Barclays Premier League game for the club since October.
Of more concern to the United boss is the long list of other players who are out through injury.
Phil Jones (ankle), Michael Carrick (calf) and Marcos Rojo (adductor) all missed last weekend's defeat to Chelsea and are not fit to feature at Everton on Sunday.
The only man who could return is midfielder Daley Blind, who missed the 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge due to an ankle problem.
"Only Blind maybe can reach the game against Everton but Jones, Carrick and Rojo cannot play," the Dutchman added.
Adnan Januzaj appears to be available despite coming off in the same under-21 match as Rafael with an ankle injury.
"(His injury) is not so heavy," Van Gaal said.
Another piece of good news for Van Gaal is that centre-back Jonny Evans is available, having served his six-match ban for spitting at Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse.
Sunday will be the first time in-form Marouane Fellaini has returned to Goodison Park since Everton sold him to United for £27.5million.
Fellaini was a cult hero at Goodison Park after spending five successful years at the club, so his decision to leave for United did not go down well with a number of Everton fans.
But Van Gaal has no concerns about Fellaini's temperament, nor his ability to take his old team apart.
"Marouane Fellaini has qualities and we want to let them dominate in a team and that's why his performances are better just now," Van Gaal said.
"I have spoken with Fellaini because I know this (is his first game back there).
"Fellaini is always dry in his answers. He said, 'It's a game...'. (I said,) 'Yes, but it's a special game for you'.
"I hope the fans shall receive him like the Chelsea fans received Juan Mata because I like that very much. I hope it's like that."
Last week's defeat at Chelsea brought to an end a run of six straight wins for United.
That streak had cemented their place in the top four, but Van Gaal is still not completely happy with his team's position in the table.
Ideally he would like them to be top of the pile, but he acknowledged last week that was almost impossible after dropping 11 points behind leaders Chelsea.
He would still like to finish above Manchester City, who are one point behind the Red Devils in fourth, as that would mean United would qualify directly for the Champions League.
Van Gaal experienced a nervy Champions League qualifier against Skonto Riga in 1997 when his Barcelona team - which included the likes of Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique and Luis Figo - edged into the group stages with a 4-2 victory over two legs.
The Catalans needed a last-minute goal from Hristo Stoickhov to win the first leg at the Nou Camp and Van Gaal wants to avoid another qualifying round in August.
"It is more easy (if you finish third)," he said.
"Your preparation for the new season is more easy then.
"Normally you have to win that kind of match because Manchester United shall be in the stronger group so it's not very difficult.
"They (the board) have set this goal (of a top four finish) for me to achieve.
"I am always in a club to win the championship, not the third or fourth position.
"If we achieve our goal my board and the owners will be very happy."
Van Gaal's predecessor David Moyes was sacked after this fixture last year, with United languishing in seventh position.
Van Gaal's job is secure - even if United do not finish in the top four.
In fact, the Dutchman has already started planning for next season.
His scouts have been assessing potential targets and new deals have been handed to a number of players including Chris Smalling, who signed a new four-year contract this week.
"We have already extended a few contracts. We are busy with next season," Van Gaal said.
Van Gaal refused to comment on speculation PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay had already flown in for talks.
"I don't discuss it with the media," Van Gaal said of the 21-year-old, who was a regular for Holland under the United manager.
"I have a lot of relationships with players. I cannot buy all the players I've coached already."