By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Bastian Schweinsteiger has been fast-tracked into the Manchester United squad for their Europa League showdown at Liverpool on Thursday night.
The Germany captain was part of an 18-man party that gathered at a Liverpool city centre hotel earlier on Thursday and is set to be named on the substitute’s bench for the eagerly-awaited first leg at Anfield against United’s big rivals.
The 31-year-old has been out with a knee injury he sustained in United’s FA Cup win over Sheffield United on 9 January.
Schweinsteiger was initially expected to return in the middle of January but the injury has proved to be worse than initially feared after it emerged that he had suffered ligament damage.
But Louis van Gaal is prepared to take a gamble on Schweinsteiger and put him among the substitutes even though he only trained with the first-team squad for the second time on Wednesday.
Van Gaal admits that he has had to take risks with players like Chris Smalling, Marcus Rojo and Matteo Darmian in recent games by bringing them back from injury without more game time in the reserves, but he claimed at his media briefing on Wednesday that Schweinsteiger was well behind Antonio Valencia in being in contention for a place on the bench.
“A lot shall come back in March but when they come back it is not so easy to decide if they can cope with the rhythm of the match,” said Van Gaal.
“Schweinsteiger has only had one training session and Valencia has a week so he is much closer to be on the bench but not to play in the match. That is different. Valencia could be fit for the bench.”
However, it would appear that Van Gaal wants to makes use of Schweinsteiger’s big-match experience in the white-hot atmosphere of Anfield as United try to secure an advantage in their bid to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.
Louis van Gaal and his squad checked in to the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool around lunchtime to complete their preparations for the last-16, first leg fixture.
In other Manchester United team news, Wayne Rooney is confident of being back in action within a month.