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No Martial, No Rooney: Why Van Gaal was wrong to sell his proven strikers last summer

Last summer, Manchester United fans were left scratching their heads. While they brought in the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Anthony Martial, as well as managing to keep David de Gea from the clutches of Real Madrid, they had sold Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez – a decision that left United with just two recognised out-and-out strikers in the squad. At the time, Van Gaal was criticised and now, that decision has backfired. Both Rooney and Martial have been ruled out of their clash with Watford this weekend, leaving the Dutchman with a selection headache on who to start upfront.

Martial picked up the injury in France’s 2-0 defeat to England on Tuesday night after going in bravely for a challenge with goalkeeper Jack Butland. The youngster was pictured leaving Wembley Stadium on crutches and he could miss the next 2-3 weeks, although the club won’t know an exact date for his return until they receive the results of his scans. Rooney, meanwhile, is suffering from an illness that Van Gaal believes is severe enough to keep him on the sidelines for this weekend, although he should be fit for their Champions League clash with PSV Eindhoven in midweek.

To make matters worse for the Red Devils, they will also have to cope without Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini after all three players picked up knocks during the international break. Carrick’s injury is perhaps the most serious but Van Gaal revealed in his press conference on Friday that he doesn’t believe the 34-year-old will spend a significant portion of time on the sidelines. This will be a much-needed boost for a side that have struggled to dominate matches in recent weeks and is already stretched to the bare minimum.

Despite the injuries, United will still be confident of picking up maximum points against a spirited Watford side. The Hornets have been impressive on home soil this season and both Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo will cause problems for United’s defence. However, if the Red Devils perform at their best, they are more than capable of securing a much-needed win that will momentarily take them to the summit of the Premier League table.

Whether Van Gaal is currently regretting his decision to sell compatriot Van Persie or Hernandez or not, we will never know. However, not even the most ardent Van Gaal supporter can defend his actions now that they could come back to haunt him this weekend. While he is a seasoned veteran, he has limited Premier League experience and the decision to sell his proven top flight strikers was extremely naive. Only time will tell but, if United slip up in this clash, it could be detrimental to their title hopes. However, the Red Devils are blessed with a number of world class stars and, given the opportunity, the likes of James Wilson and Memphis Depay are more than capable of stepping into Rooney and Martial’s shoes for the weekend.

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