Manchester United have been dealt a huge blow with the news that striker Wayne Rooney has been ruled out for at least two months with a knee ligament damage.
Rooney has been left out of Manchester United’s trip to face Midtjylland in the Europa League last 32-clash and could be out to mid-April.
The injury is believed to have occurred during the defeat to Sunderland with Rooney playing on desperately hoping to dig United out out of a hole but it leaves with Van Gaal with just one fit first-team striker in Anthony Martial.
“That’s typical Wayne,” Van Gaal said.
“He’s a guy who wants to go until the end – if he’s feeling pain he doesn’t want to go off. He wants to win.
“That’s a fantastic attitude but sometimes it’s also bad for his body.
“But you cannot say (if he made the injury worse by staying on) because he didn’t know when (exactly) it happened. That’s the difficulty.”
Van Gaal stressed United will simply “have to cope” after an injury that takes the club’s list of unavailable senior players to 12 – a situation he described as “ridiculous”.
But the loss of Rooney – as well as a worry to England as they continue to prepare for Euro 2016 – would appear a major setback for the Dutchman at a time when his side are struggling in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League and his position is under increasing scrutiny.
Rooney, with 14 goals in all competitions, is United’s top scorer this season and has netted seven times in his last nine matches.
The squad – also shorn in the last few days of the services of defenders Matteo Darmian (shoulder) and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (illness) and midfielder Marouane Fellaini (muscle injury) – now looks severely limited in terms of out-and-out striker options.
But when asked on Wednesday if he had any regrets about not signing any strikers beyond Anthony Martial or hanging on to ones he had let go like Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, Van Gaal insisted he did not.
The 64-year-old said: “Our policy is that we didn’t want a big squad, because otherwise you can’t try youngsters in your team. And normally you don’t have so many injuries.”
While making reference to the options he does have available up front – primarily Martial – Van Gaal did mention Will Keane, the 23-year-old striker who recently scored five times in a United Under-21 game.
Keane is among several inexperienced player included in the squad for the Midtjylland fixture, along with Donald Love, Regan Poole, Joe Riley and James Weir.
Van Gaal has admitted that winning the Europa League is now looking United’s most viable route into the Champions League.
De Gea, Romero, Love, McNair, Smalling, Blind, Poole, Riley, Carrick, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Lingard, Pereira, Weir, Mata, Memphis, Martial, Keane.