OPINION By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
An air of optimism has returned to Old Trafford as Manchester United aim for a fourth consecutive victory on Wednesday night.
The excitement generated by Marcus Rashford’s extraordinary start to his career has lifted a team, a club and an entire fanbase but Louis van Gaal is long enough in the tooth not to get carried away.
The unexpected victory over title challengers Arsenal on Sunday has taken some off the heat off Van Gaal but the pressure will be on the home side to clinch a fourth consecutive win and keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish.
As is par for the course now at United, Louis van Gaal will await updates from the overworked medical team before naming his team for Wednesday’s Premier League clash against Watford.
Key duo Anthony Martial and Chris Smalling were among the 14 players unavailable for selection for Sunday’s thrilling win over Arsenal but could return, while Matteo Darmian will also come into contention after recovering from a shoulder injury.
“Martial can play and also Darmian can play,” said Van Gaal at his media briefing on Tuesday. “Maybe Chris Smalling can play. We have to wait and see for tomorrow. It depends how they feel but the chance is there that one of these three players plays.”
Rashford is likely to start his third consecutive match, which could mean that Martial starts either on the bench or on one of the flanks.
Marcos Rojo could drop out after suffering an injury against Arsenal in his first start in three months, which could open the opportunity for a full debut at left-back for Tim Fosu-Mensah, the latest in a long line of Academy graduates given their chance by Van Gaal.
If Smalling is available, Carrick could push back up into central midfield alongside Morgan Schneiderlin.
Manchester United (possible) De Gea; Varela, Smalling, Blind, Fosu-Mensah; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Lingard, Herrera, Martial; Rashford