Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has confirmed he could call upon Memphis Depay and Will Keane for the team’s clash with Sunderland this weekend after both impressed for the under-21 team in midweek.
Speaking to the assembled press ahead of the clash with the Black Cats on Saturday lunchtime, Van Gaal fielded questions about his own future and that of veteran midfielder Michael Carrick. But it seems as though the Red Devils team may have a more youthful feel to it after some impressive showings from the aforementioned duo in a 7-0 win over Norwich City.
Depay notched three assists in the match, and Van Gaal admitted he was impressed by the efforts of the 21-year-old, per Alex Richards of the Daily Mirror:
It was, for him, a very good match, because he could raise his confidence. He had three assists. It is also good for him, and that is why I let him play, because I can’t play too many first-team players in the second team.
Now we have to play Sunderland tomorrow and then the [UEFA] Europa League and then Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.
As we can see here courtesy of INFO MAN UTD, during the rout of the Canaries, the Dutch international really turned on the style:
Video: Memphis Depay skills bersama United U21 (vs Norwich). pic.twitter.com/vPCDKOJewo— INFO MAN UTD (@ManUtd_INFO) February 12, 2016
However, since his big money move from PSV Eindhoven in the summer, the winger has failed to make a consistent impact in the Premier League. Indeed, he riled United supporters in their 1-1 draw against Chelsea last weekend, needlessly giving the ball away in the final stages and allowing the Blues to break away and score an equaliser.
Keane was arguably even more impressive than Depay on the night against Norwich, though, as he netted five goals. After this stellar show, Van Gaal admitted there is a chance he could be involved on Saturday, per the club’s official Twitter feed:
The manager also had to field more questions about his long-term future, with speculation mounting about Jose Mourinho potentially taking over at Old Trafford, per Nicholas Godden of the MailOnline.
As noted by Simon Stone of BBC Sport, when asked about the stories, not only did Van Gaal insist there was no truth to them, he also stated it is not his decision whether or not he’ll be at the club come the 2016-17 season:
LVG on if he will be @ManUtd boss next season if no top four. "Not a question for me. It is for the board of Man Utd. You must ask them."— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) February 12, 2016
LVG repeated assertion that stories about his future were invented. Asked if he really thought they were made up from nothing, said: 'Yes'.— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) February 12, 2016
While there are likely to be some fresher faces in the squad this weekend, the United boss was also quizzed about Carrick’s contract, which is due to expire at the end of this season. However, he refused to entertain any talk about the 34-year-old’s situation:
Not talking about possibility of new contract for Michael Carrick: "I don't discuss that with you."— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) February 12, 2016
He was happy to talk about the battle for a spot in the top four, though, with the Red Devils in fifth, trailing local rivals Manchester City, who occupy fourth spot, by six points.
With City and Tottenham Hotspur facing each other on Sunday, as well Leicester City and Arsenal, there could be a chance for United to edge closer to the top of the table over the next couple of days. Van Gaal insisted the team is focused on getting their own job done first before looking at other results, per Richards:
We don’t have to look to our competitors, you have to win your own matches first, and that’s also why we were so frustrated that we lost two points against at Chelsea.
First you have to win yourself, then look at your competitors. But we know they have to play each other, so it is sure that some competitors will lose points. But we have to win points, that is the most important thing.
Van Gaal confirmed the team will be without a few key figures for their jaunt up north, though, with Bastian Schweinsteiger given some extra time off:
Playing in the first game of the weekend will give United a chance to send out an emphatic message to the rest of the division, and they should be confident of getting the better of the Black Cats. With the rest of the top four playing each other, three points would guarantee Van Gaal’s men make up ground in the race for a UEFA Champions League spot.
There have been some signs of life from Van Gaal’s United in recent matches, and the Dutchman will want to keep building positive momentum at the Stadium of Light. He’ll be hoping the persistent talk about his future doesn’t distract the players from the job at hand.