Saturday 24 February 2018

Louis van Gaal happy to have Michael Carrick available

Michael Carrick is due to return for Manchester United this weekend
Michael Carrick is due to return for Manchester United this weekend

Louis van Gaal is glad to be able to call upon Michael Carrick for Manchester United's clash with Arsenal on Sunday as the manager's concerns about fatigue continue.

Carrick sat out Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League home victory over Wolfsburg due to what was described as a minor injury, b ut the 34-year-old was subsequently named in Roy Hodgson's England squad on Thursday.

And speaking later that day, United boss Van Gaal told MUTV ahead of this weekend's Barclays Premier League contest at the Emirates Stadium: "Carrick can play so I have a choice.

"I am happy to say there are no injuries from last night."

United are currently Premier League leaders and head into the Arsenal fixture on a four-match winning streak in all competitions.

But the Wolfsburg victory was somewhat unconvincing and the performance drew some criticism from Van Gaal, who stressed the need for improvement.

The Dutchman also suggested his players are being affected by fatigue, claiming the number of games United have played of late - that was their sixth in 18 days - is taking its toll.

And when asked about that on Thursday with a view to the meeting with Arsenal, who played their Champions League game this week a day earlier than United, Van Gaal said: "The solution is recovery - recovery, recovery, recovery. And that is why it is so difficult to prepare for the match against Arsenal.

"You want to prepare on the pitch, but you cannot do it because the players need freshness. So then the other solution is to change your squad.

"So we have to see how the evaluation is of my fatigue specialist.

"I cannot tell that now, then tomorrow the players have a day off because they have already had two weeks with no day off. So we wait and see on Saturday. Then I can make decisions."

Carrick's fellow central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, 31, came off in the second half of the Wolfsburg game while Morgan Schneiderlin played the full 90 minutes. It remains to be seen whether Ander Herrera, who also sat the match out, is involved on Sunday.

The winning goal against Wolfsburg came from an unlikely source in defender Chris Smalling, another player who made Hodgson's latest England squad.

Smalling, who looks to have improved considerably, earned the praise of Van Gaal on Wednesday for his exploits in the European match.

And the manager added to that on Thursday, emphasising Smalling himself deserves most of the credit for the transformation he has undergone.

"I think when he does things, he does it by himself," Van Gaal said.

"I help him with advice, demands, training sessions, and showing images to improve him, but he has to be open and he has to perform on the pitch.

"He does everything himself. It is the greatest compliment you have to make to Chris and not to me."

Winger Ashley Young did not make Hodgson's party, a day after he came on at half-time in the Wolfsburg game to replace Antonio Valencia at right-back.

Van Gaal has pointed out Young is a "very important" member of his squad.

"He is a team player, and not many players are," Van Gaal said.

"He is always thinking about the team and he can play in a lot of positions. For a manager, it is fantastic he is willing to do that.

"He has not played so much at right-back but the second goal started with him. I am very happy with him."

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