Manchester United will be aiming to build upon the most impressive result of Louis van Gaal’s reign to date when struggling Hull City visit Old Trafford on Saturday. United secured their first away win under the Dutchman’s charge against Arsenal last week with a resilient display at the Emirates Stadium that moved them up to fourth in the Premier League.
The victory was made all the sweeter by the fact that Van Gaal again had to again negotiate a rash of injuries, particularly in defense. The situation was made even worse during Saturday’s encounter, with Luke Shaw being forced off with an ankle injury that could keep him out for three weeks. Fellow defenders Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Rafael are also still expected to be missing for the visit of Hull, but Jonny Evans made a return from a broken foot in a Reserves outing on Tuesday. The Northern Ireland international remains uncertain whether he will have the required fitness to take on Hull, and explained that the number of unpreventable injuries has made the start of the season a real challenge for the club.
"There have been injuries with the odd hamstring or groin, there have been quite a few of those, but Rojo dislocated his shoulder and I had a fracture in my foot” he told MUTV. “There were a couple of other injuries -- Phil Jones has got one that came out of the blue. We don't want any more injuries but what can we do about it? They're freak injuries and it's difficult from that point of view. It'd be nice to get settled in the team -- everyone in the squad wants to get settled in their position as well.”
After losing three of their first six games under Van Gaal’s charge, Manchester United have now lost just once in their last seven, and that was at the home of champions Manchester City. United’s mini resurgence contrasts sharply with the form of their opponents. After surviving their first season back in the Premier League last term and reaching the final of the FA Cup, Hull made considerable investment in their squad this summer, including in the likes of Robert Snodgrass, Jake Livermore and, most notably, Uruguayan striker Abel Hernández. But rather than kick on, the team managed by former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce currently find themselves above the Premier League relegation by a solitary point, having won just two games this season. They have also lost their last three contests, all by a single goal, including against Tottenham last week after they had led 1-0. Bruce has at least been boosted by a scan on the knee of midfielder Mohamed Diame showing no major problems after an injury picked up against Spurs.
Prediction: While the personnel at Van Gaal’s disposal continues to be considerably less than ideal, there are clear signs that the players are showing an understanding of what’s been demanded of them both from a mental and tactical standpoint. Even with a suspect defense and Robin van Persie offering little up front, United should have enough at Old Trafford to beat a Hull side surely low on confidence after recent defeats.
Manchester United 2-1 Hull City
Kickoff time: 10 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra