Marcos Rojo will not be available for Manchester United's upcoming Premier League match against Sunderland, Louis van Gaal has confirmed. The versatile Argentine defender missed the Capital One Cup third round tie against hopefuls Ipswich after sustaining a hamstring problem during victory over Southampton, and it always seemed unlikely that he would be fit enough to feature against the struggling Black Cats at Old Trafford on 26 September.
Rojo completed 67 minutes of United's 3-2 win on the south coast last weekend before pulling up and being replaced by young Paddy McNair. His manager subsequently revealed that the 25 year old had neglected to warn staff that he had suffered an injury and Van Gaal's problems were further compounded when his replacement also picked up a knock.
With both players unavailable in midweek, Phil Jones was included in the matchday squad for the first time this season after recovering from a blood clot in his calf, playing the final 20 minutes against Ipswich as a replacement for fellow England centre-back Chris Smalling. Although he only returned to full first-team training last week, Jones could be in contention to start against Sunderland if Van Gaal chooses to shift Daley Blind to full-back to compensate for the lack of left-footers available to fill the position.
"No," Van Gaal, who was forced to deploy Ashley Young at left-back for the visit of Mick McCarthy's men, was quoted as saying by Press Association Sport when asked if Rojo could face the Premier League's bottom club. "The left-footed players, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, are injured, so I have a problem.
"I have changed every player except a left-footed player so Daley Blind has played all the minutes [this season]. Smalling had also played all the minutes and because of that I substituted him [against Ipswich] and brought Jones in. We have to spare players and Smalling and [Juan] Mata have played all the minutes, but I cannot spare Blind because all the left-footed players are injured."
United ran out comfortable winners over an Ipswich side that showed 11 changes from their 1-1 draw against Birmingham, with captain Wayne Rooney notching his first League Cup goal for five years and Andreas Pereira scoring for the very first time in senior football with a delightful free-kick that gave visiting goalkeeper Bartosz Białkowski no chance. Substitute Anthony Martial, who became the sport's most expensive teenager after completing a £36m ($54.7m) move from AS Monaco in the final days of the summer transfer window, followed up his debut goal against Liverpool and a brace against Southampton with another strike in injury time.
For Sunderland, however, the cup piled on yet more misery as they conceded four times in the space of just 36 first-half minutes on their way to a comprehensive defeat at the hands of 2014 winners Manchester City. Having postponed his retirement in June to sign a one-year contract at the Stadium of Light after helping the club to avoid relegation to the second tier last term, Dick Advocaat has been unable to arrest an alarming run of two draws and four defeats from their opening six league games.