STOKE-ON-TRENT (AFP) – Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal complained that the New Year had brought no change of fortune on the injury front following his side’s 1-1 draw at Stoke City.
His year got off to the worst possible start as United fell behind to an early Ryan Shawcross goal at the Britannia Stadium on Thursday and although they equalised, they also lost Ashley Young to injury.
Young, who has flourished under Van Gaal in the absence of injured team-mates, limped off with a hamstring injury and could be sidelined for a month.
“It looks like four weeks, but I am not a doctor,” said Van Gaal, whose side earned a point thanks to a 26th-minute equaliser by Radamel Falcao.
United’s manager was quick to highlight once again the concerns that he has for the health of his players after such a busy festive programme of matches.
“You have seen, for example, that Ashley Young could not bear that load,” he said.
Young will be one absentee when United begin their FA Cup campaign with a potential banana skin at League One strugglers Yeovil Town on Sunday.
Van Gaal added: “I will have to check on my players tomorrow (Friday) and then again the day after before we can begin to plan for the FA Cup match.
“The FA Cup is the shortest route to success, so we are very interested and my players are also very interested I think.”
Following his experience in the League Cup, where United were humiliated 4-0 by third-tier Milton Keynes Dons, Van Gaal knows his side are in for another tough test in the West Country.
He wore the look of a relieved man after United took a point from a game in which his side were far from their best.
“I think we have known before the game already that this shall be a tough game,” he said. “Stoke are a well-organised team and play with the long ball.
“We started very badly by conceding from a set play that we had prepared for. They scored the same way we had thought. That’s a big disappointment.”
He added: “I think Stoke City deserved more the victory and at the end a draw is good. I cannot say we were the better team today. I have said that many, many times before, but today I cannot say that.
“We could have passed the ball quicker I think. The crosses were not so good. I don’t think one cross was good.”
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes was frustrated that his side had only one point to show for their efforts against his former club.
But he said: “It’s a measure of how far we have progressed that we are disappointed with a point from a game against one of the top clubs in Europe.
“We created by far the better opportunities and had the better momentum to our play.”
Hughes can now look forward to welcoming his home-town club Wrexham to the Britannia Stadium in the FA Cup.
“It is an occasion I am looking forward to,” he said. “It will be a great FA Cup game, because Wrexham will be bringing 5,000 fans.
“It means so much to them as a club because it will boost their finances, but we will be looking to go as far we can in the competition.
“I watched my first live football game at Wrexham when they played in the sixth round of the FA Cup so I desperately want to see them enjoy good times again in the future.”