Louis van Gaal has confirmed that Juan Mata and Paddy McNair will both start for Manchester United against Everton on Sunday.
United will be hoping to secure their third consecutive home victory when the Toffees visit Old Trafford for the 12 noon kick-off.
And Van Gaal has affirmed that Mata, who has notched eight United goals since his January arrival, will be the man to take suspended captain Wayne Rooney’s place.
“Juan Mata has played very well in his [Rooney’s] position,” stated van Gaal at his pre-match press conference.
“I have to choose. I will miss Wayne because he is the captain of the team but Mata can also play very well.”
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The Spanish playmaker, 26, will be hoping to solidify his place in the starting line-up, with the recent influx of world-class stars into United making it all the more difficult.
Angel Di Maria has got off to a superb start, claiming two goals and two assists already, while Radamel Falcao and Daley Blind have also impressed.
But while Mata is a ready-made replacement for the absent ex-Evertonian Rooney, Van Gaal’s main issue has been his sides’ lacklustre defence.
Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are both facing a few more weeks on the sidelines, while Phil Jones hasn’t been deemed fit enough to play any part against the Merseysiders.
But 19-year-old academy graduate McNair marked his first-team debut in impressive style when he replaced the suspended Blackett last weekend, helping his team hang on to claim victory over West Ham.
And United’s Dutch manager confirmed the Northern Irishman would retain his place on Sunday, despite Blackett returning from his one-match ban.
“We still have three central defenders injured so he [McNair] shall play,’ Van Gaal continued.
“He is the only player who can play in the right-sided defensive position.
“I chose him last week and he was very good. It’s difficult for a player like him to maintain that level – that is his biggest challenge.”
Van Gaal also bemoaned United’s growing injury list ahead of the game, with summer signing Ander Herrera the latest casualty.
“We have eight injuries and one red card so nine players are not available,” the 63-year-old added.
“It’s difficult to explain. You can be fit but not match fit – that’s a big difference.
“For example, Ander Herrera is fit but he cannot play because of his rib pressure and Marouane Fellaini has trained for one week but is not fit to play 90 minutes.”
Meanwhile, Everton boss Roberto Martinez has problems of his own on the injury front.
The Toffees secured a hard-fought draw away against Russian Premier League outfit FK Krasnodar in a tricky Europa League tie on Thursday night.
And Martinez confirmed that several of his star players would have to be assessed before kick-off.
“We could get some players back this weekend,” Martinez explained to the club’s official site.
“James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman will have late fitness tests, so it’s too early to tell on those two.
“But Steven Pienaar has been training really well and I think he probably has got the better chance of the four players looking ahead to the weekend.”
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