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louis starts UNITED EXODUS

Darren Fletcher looks set to sign for West Ham despite the news that Michael Carrick has been sidelined for at least four weeks with a muscle injury - a clear indication that manager Louis van Gaal's planned clear-out of players has began.

Van Gaal suffered yet another injury setback yesterday after the Manchester United manager confirmed Carrick will miss the whole of February because of a "rupture" to an unspecified muscle.

The news is a big blow to the Dutchman, who lost the midfielder for four months earlier this season due to an ankle injury.

"It is not a minor injury but a muscle rupture, I think," he said. "I think it shall take more than four weeks.

"He can be important for the team but he is now injured."

Other than Daley Blind, United only have Anderson as cover in defensive midfield and the unwanted Brazilian may well leave Old Trafford before the transfer window shuts on Monday night.

Yet despite the lack of cover, Van Gaal will not block Fletcher's move to east London.


The Scot, 30, was undergoing a medical at West Ham yesterday after the club he has served all his life granted him a free transfer.

Fletcher and Carrick were named as deputies to skipper Wayne Rooney last summer, but the Scot has only started four Premier League matches this season.

Van Gaal admits he will miss the midfielder, who has played 342 times for the club he joined as a schoolboy 20 years ago.

"He is my third captain. He is an important guy in the dressing room. I like him as a human being and as a player. We shall miss him,'' Van Gaal said.

"But he has not played so many times. I think always that is the main goal of a player. We have talked about that. He prefers to play. Therefore we have helped him to go away.

"For us, it is a miss, a loss. For the club who bought him, it is another player with a lot of qualities, as a midfielder and as a captain.

"He is a very experienced player."

Wilfried Zaha has also been linked with a move away from Old Trafford before the transfer window shuts on Monday night.

Van Gaal said there will be no major incomings before the deadline, though.

"No. I read every day that I am interested in players. I am not interested in players,'' Van Gaal said when asked if he would sign anyone before the window shuts.

"I have said we are selling or letting players go....but you never trust me."

That said, the Dutchman has snapped up one player in an intriguing transfer from neighbours Salford City

Libyan right-back Sadiq El Fitouri, 20, has signed for United from the Evo-Stik first division north club, who are part-owned by members of the famed Class of '92. El Fitouri has been training with United after they were alerted to him by former players Phil Neville and Paul Scholes

Salford signed the right-back after he was released by Manchester City and he has now signed an 18-month deal at Old Trafford.

"This is a dream come true for me and I have to thank SCFC (Salford City) for the chance as well as the faith they have showed in me," El Fitouri said.

"I am really looking forward to what happens next and to be given the opportunity to do so at Manchester United is unbelievable."


The first team return to action today against Leicester, the team that caused possibly the most embarrassing defeat of Van Gaal's reign last September.

Van Gaal's team lost 5-3 against the Premier League newcomers despite being 3-1 up with 30 minutes to go.

Van Gaal is determined his side will be fully focused on the task in hand when they host the Foxes again today.

"I learned from that game that when things are happening in the wrong way you have to control the game,'' he said.

"As a top club you have to control the match and when you are in a good result like 3-1 you have to control the match and you have to play and finish the match."