Recent injuries to Manchester United’s captain and their star keeper have undoubtedly come as a big blow to Louis Van Gaal and his team. David De Gea was forced to leave the pitch before the Reds even started their match against FC Midtjylland in the Europea League due to a knee injury he picked up during the warm-up. Manchester United, who were already without 13 players including Wayne Rooney, produced another disappointing performance on Thursday evening as they lost to the Danish champions. Although their injury list is extensive, David De Gea’s is ultimately the worst and without their captain and talisman, Manchester United may struggle more than ever as calls for Van Gaal’s sacking grow even louder with each defeat.
Like De Gea, Rooney suffered a knee injury in last weekend’s loss against Sunderland and could face up to six weeks out of action. As well as missing several games for United, including their Europa League loss, he is likely to miss England’s friendlies against Germany and Netherlands in March. As well as their keeper and striker, Manchester United are without their first choice full-backs, Darmian and Shaw, and midfielders Fellaini and Schweinsteiger amongst others. De Gea was voted last season’s club Player of the Season and the prevention of his transfer to Real Madrid ahead of the current campaign was one of the most important bits of business Van Gaal has been forced to carry out since being in England. Although Rooney has come under a lot of criticism this season, he’s still been a crucial part of the Manchester United attack and has added his fair share of goals – leading the way over his team-mates so far this season. Both players will be a huge loss in upcoming matches, but just how much will Van Gaal’s team struggle without them?
In 34 appearances for United this season, Rooney has already notched up 14 goals, with the majority coming in the Premier League. His form has picked up in recent games too; he’s scored seven goals in his last nine games in a red shirt, with five of those scored in league clashes. There’s already been evidence this season that when Wayne Rooney isn’t scoring, Manchester United are struggling to record wins. In the 21 games where he failed to add to his goal-scoring tally, only six were victorious for United and his side dropped points in an astonishing 15 matches when Rooney failed to score. If Manchester United are to cope without their captain for the next six weeks, they need to find goals from midfield but after their performance in Europe on Thursday evening, it’s hard to see where they’ll come from.
Anthony Martial has impressed since his transfer to the Premier League from Monacco and has already notched up 10 goals this season. The 19 year-old could be burdened with the task of both creating and scoring for the Reds over the next few weeks. Although he’s never looked shy in the face of pressure and responsibility, it’s certainly a hard task for the youngster and one Rooney has had many seasons to earn the experience. In midfield, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay have contributed their fair share too – adding six more goals each. Both will need to hit top form as soon as possible to help Martial lead the way for United. On a brighter note, Van Gaal’s youngster, Jesse Lingard, has had a fantastic season and with four goals to his name, the academy star will be hoping to add even more and continue his impressive campaign.
Scoring goals one end is a concern for Manchester United, but keeping them out the other end is just as important for a team struggling to score prolifically this season. And with De Gea now absent from the United goal, Van Gaal has an even bigger challenge ahead of him. The Spanish keeper is without a doubt Manchester United’s best player and his performances in recent years have proved as such. He’s regarded as one of the best keepers in the world and his shot-stopping ability cannot be compared in the Premier League. As well as commanding his area with authority, the young keeper has great composure in one-on-one situations and his smart-thinking has often kept United within the game.
Already this season, De Gea has recorded 9 clean sheets in just 22 appearances, one of the best records in the league, behind Manchester City’s Joe Hart. He averages 2.5 saves per game, the majority being important ones and has a 94% average success rate when claiming set-pieces. His stats tell the tale and whilst the 25 year-old may have been playing his football in Spain earlier this season, he’s already contributed greatly to United’s campaign in 2015-16. But is he replaceable?
No. Without Wayne Rooney and David De Gea, Manchester United look short in a number of areas. Aside from goal-scoring and shot-stopping, both players are key, senior leaders on the pitch and are often two of the first men the team look to for inspiration. With key matches coming up in Europe and the Premier League, Manchester United fans will have to clench their fists and hope their in-form players, Martial and Lingard, step up to the huge task facing them. Without De Gea standing guard between the goal posts, you fear United will concede far more. If they want to avoid a string of defeats, they’ll need to produce more in attack and hope their key players make a swift return from injury.