Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Wilfried Zaha gets nod for Manchester United, Rafael da Silva returns home

AFP, WASHINGTON

Wilfried Zaha was due to play as a striker in Manchester United’s friendly against Italy’s Inter yesterday, while fullback Rafael da Silva returned to England with a groin injury.

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal confirmed both moves on Monday and also that newcomer Luke Shaw is unfit for full training, but Manchester United’s new Dutch manager offered little insight on reports of a possible offer for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez from Inter or criticism by rivals Manchester City that United’s pre-season look was not very impressive.

“I think we do very well. I’m very pleased,” Van Gaal said. “In the competition we shall see who beats who.”

Zaha, a 21-year-old Ivory Coast product brought in from Crystal Palace last year, has mainly played as a winger, but was to be tested as a finisher in Van Gaal’s new 3-4-3 alignment, a formation he used with great success guiding the Netherlands national side at the World Cup finals.

“When we play this system, he has to play as a striker or he cannot play in this system,” Van Gaal said. “I said I believe he can do the job. He believed me and now he’s performing well.”

It could be a make-or-break showing for Zaha, with stars Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie among the others vying for time up front.

Both men are captaincy candidates as well, although Van Gaal said he is picking match captains on tour based on those who play for 90 minutes.

Colombian Fredy Guarin is reportedly being mentioned in a swap deal for Hernandez, but Van Gaal said he was clueless.

“I don’t know nothing about that,” he said. “Is it true? Probably. I think you probably have to wait for the announcement of Manchester United. For me, I don’t know.”

Brazilian defender Da Silva suffered his injury in training before United’s win on Friday last week over AS Roma and is already receiving treatment, but is a question mark for the English Premier League season opener.

“I don’t know,” Van Gaal said. “We must wait and see with Rafa.”

The same attitude is in place for Shaw, who did not train with the main squad on Monday due to fitness issues.

“He needs to be fit and he’s not very fit,” Van Gaal said. “Therefore, he cannot perform what I want. So first he must be fit, then he has to train. I’ve spoken with him. We have made a program for him. How long is that? I don’t know.”

Defender Chris Smalling said the team is catching on quickly to the new formation.

“I like it more than the traditional 4-4-2. It allows you a lot more freedom and you can be aggressive,” Smalling said. “Each day we’re picking it up. We are making gradual improvement. We have to keep on improving.”

Crucial to that is talking between the players.

“I think communication is the key,” Smalling said.

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