Antonio Valencia will return to the bench for Manchester United's Europa League showdown with Liverpool, Louis van Gaal has confirmed. United's options at full-back have been decimated by injury in early 2016 with Valencia among the clutch of players to have been ruled out. The Ecuador international has not played since late October last year, having undergone surgery on his foot.

Marcos Rojo has recently returned following his lengthy lay-off with van Gaal initially bringing him off the bench to ease him back into the first team. The Dutchman plans to do the same with Valencia, admitting he is wary over throwing the 29-year-old straight back into first-team action.

United still have a lengthy injury list that includes Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney but van Gaal is hopeful of more returns by the end of the month with Germany international Bastian Schweinsteiger likely to be the next player to come back.

"Valencia is coming back and Schweinsteiger is coming back," van Gaal told a press conference. "I think a lot of players shall come back in March. When they come back it's not so easy to decide if they can cope with the rhythm of the matches though. Bastian has had only one training session with us, Valencia has had a week – he is closer to being on the bench for example but not to playing a match, that's different."

United travel to Anfield on Thursday 10 March for the first leg of their last 16 clash with their arch-rivals, before the second leg at Old Trafford on 17 March.

Juan Mata is likely to feature as he prepares to serve a domestic ban against West Ham United on Sunday but Adnan Januzaj and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are both ineligible for Europa League games. Jesse Lingard is also set to serve a one-match suspension.