Adnan Januzaj could return to the Manchester United squad for the Premier League showdown with Liverpool on 17 January. After making just two starting appearances during his loan spell with Borussia Dortmund, the 20-year-old returned to Old Trafford at the beginning of the month, becoming the first January addition to van Gaal's squad.
Having played so little first-team football during his four months in Germany, the United manager has not selected the Belgium international in any of his matchday squads since his return to the club, insisting he work with the Under-21 ranks.
But ahead of the trip to Anfield, Van Gaal has suggested Januzaj is nearing his return to fitness and could be named on the bench.
"We have taken no risk and we have built him up in our way of training sessions. Now he can be on the bench or he shall play in the second team," Van Gaal said, United's official website reports.
United sealed a 3-1 victory over arch-rivals Liverpool in their first encounter this season but the forthcoming game will be Jurgen Klopp's first taste of the famous fixture.
"We need to be aggressive but also under control and that is always difficult because the passion to play in these kinds of games is very high," Van Gaal said.
"I know that it is an important match for the fans. I have seen the reaction when we beat them so I know that. Mike the chef has said it to me also, with his way of saying it. I think everybody is ready to play this game, but you have to do it at the right time and in a different schedule - I think we have to play at five past two on Sunday, which is new I think. We have to show it at that time in that 90 minutes, or 95 minutes, with the resistance of Liverpool."