Louis van Gaal has spoken optimistically regarding Manchester United's easing injury worries as his side look to halt a costly recent run of form on 2 January. The Red Devils, who have now slipped to sixth in the Premier League, welcome Swansea City for their first encounter of the new year hoping to record a first victory in eight matches.
Such a poor record has led to increased speculation that Van Gaal could leave the club, with a slightly improved showing in the goalless draw against Chelsea last time out seemingly earning him a temporary stay of execution.
While the manager has been strongly criticised for his side's perceived obsession with organisation and a chronic lack of attacking prowess, his case has certainly not been helped by United suffering from a fitness crisis towards the end of 2015. In addition to a multitude of short-term injuries, Luke Shaw broke his leg in horrific circumstances during a Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven in September and Antonio Valencia was later ruled out for five months after undergoing foot surgery.
Versatile defender Marcos Rojo also needed a procedure to correct a dislocated shoulder sustained in training, but Van Gaal claims that all three of his long-term absentees are progressing well in their respective recoveries.
"The good news for 2016 is that we are in a better place in terms of injuries," he told matchday programme United Review as relayed by the Manchester Evening News. "Sadly we still have a few long-term injuries in Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo. But the good news is that all three are progressing well."
The Dutchman also provided an update on the fitness of Jesse Lingard, who has has not featured for United since being replaced by Andreas Pereira after just 31 minutes of a hugely disappointing 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth on 12 December. The 23-year-old midfielder sustained a hamstring injury at Dean Court, although it appears that he is edging close to a return.
"Jesse Lingard is now getting closer to training with the squad and for the match against Chelsea we made four changes from the Boxing Day match against Stoke City. Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger all gave assured performances despite not have match rhythm – which is a positive for us with such a busy January ahead."
Swansea caretaker boss Alan Curtis is expected to welcome back Wayne Routledge for the trip to Old Trafford after he missed the stalemate with Crystal Palace, while centre-back Federico Fernández is also hoping to feature despite a bruised heel. Eder is unlikely to be risked as he continues to recover from damaged ankle ligaments and fellow summer signing Franck Tabanou remains sidelined with a torn quad muscle.