Manchester United made it through to the last-16 of the Europa League on Thursday night with a 5-1 hammering of Danish champions Midtjylland at Old Trafford.
The night did not start well for the Red Devils, as French striker Martial pulled-up with a hamstring problem in the warm-up.
The visitors even took the lead to go 3-1 ahead on aggregate. However the Red Devils surged back and Martial’s replacement teenage replacement Marcus Rashford enjoyed a dream debut scoring twice to United a 6-3 aggregate victory.
Terrible luck with injuries
Manchester United have been plagued by injuries all season, especially in defence. The defensive injury crisis has meant that youngsters Gustavo Varela, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Donald Love and Joe Riley have all been used this season.
United boss Louis van Gaal has had little option than to use the youngsters. The Red Devils are still without Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia through injury, while Phil Jones is still struggling for match fitness.
Borthwick-Jackson and Chris Smalling are even doubts for United’s Sunday game against Arsenal in the Premier League. Van Gaal’s team could once again line-up with a very unfamiliar back-up four against the Gunners.
Some have claimed that Louis van Gaal’s training methods have led to the number of injuries, but it cannot all be put down to the Dutchman’s methods. Sometimes teams are just unlucky with injuries and there is nothing that can be done to prevent them from happening.
I have criticised United’s boss in the past, but even I admit that the veteran Dutchman has not been helped by the number of players unavailable to him.
A chance for the youngsters
One up side to the United injury crisis is that a number of the clubs youngsters have filtered into the Red Devils starting line-up this season. Youngsters very rarely get a chance at big Premier League clubs.
The majority of academy graduates end up going out on loan, before being released or sold off, just for the cycle to repeat. United obviously had a reputation for producing young talent from within in the past, with the class of ’92 maybe the most famous products of the clubs youth system.
However, since those days of the Neville brothers, Beckham, Giggs and Scholes very few youngsters from the academy have come through and made a mark on the first team. Some players have come through the United academy and made it elsewhere with Leicester centre midfielder Danny Drinkwater being a shining example, but not at United.
The youngsters that are currently in the first team squad may not make it at Old Trafford, but they will take a lot from their time at the club which will hold them in good stead in their future career elsewhere.
Could United have been more successful without the injuries this season?
Van Gaal has come in for heavy criticism this season for the teams style of play, but the question is could the Red Devils have been more successful without the amount of injuries they have had this season?
We will never know, but we know that Van Gaal’s style of play probably would not have been much different. The Dutchman boss been highly unfortunate to lose so many players and usually in the same positions as well.
The Red Devils are underdogs for Sunday’s game at odds of 9/4 to record a victory against the title challengers. No doubt those injuries to key players will not have helped their chances of claiming a victory over the Gunners.
I have been a big critic of Van Gaal’s style of football this season, but I must admit I am starting feel sympathy for the Dutchman because of his team’s current injury plight.
When his time at United is recorded there will be very little mention of the injury crisis, just that his style of football was dull and failed to significantly revive the clubs fortunes.
Would Louis van Gaal’s United career been more successful without so many injuries?