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Fellaini ban adds to Van Gaal selection headache

06 May 2016, 08:45

Norwich -Marouane Fellaini's suspension for Saturday's trip to struggling Norwich City has added to Louis van Gaal's problems as the Manchester United manager looks to secure a place in the Champions League.

Fellaini was charged with violent conduct by the English Football Association for elbowing Robert Huth after the Leicester City defender pulled his hair during last Sunday's 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

The Belgium midfielder's conduct has earned him a three-match ban, meaning he will miss all of United's remaining Premier League fixtures, although he could return for the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace on May 22.

With Fellaini absent at Carrow Road and Van Gaal keen to freshen up his team, the Dutchman is planning changes for the trip for the Norwich clash.

"We have to assess the tiredness of the players because there's an overload of matches, so maybe I have to rotate," Van Gaal said.

"But now Fellaini is suspended so I have to change my line-up. Every week you have something that you don't like, but I think we can manage."

Fellaini has been largely undistinguished during a United season that is likely to rank as a disappointment even if they beat Palace at Wembley.

The lack of a serious Premier League title challenge allied to some uninspiring football is the reason for the disquiet among the club's supporters, and yet United are finishing the season strongly.

Van Gaal's team have won six out of eight matches since being knocked out of the Europa League at the quarter-final stage by Liverpool and victory in their final three league matches may just be enough to snatch fourth place.

There is little room for error on that front, as United are four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, but Van Gaal's side do have a game in hand and third-placed Arsenal could do them a huge favour by winning at Eastlands on Sunday.


Facing Norwich might bring back bad memories for Van Gaal, who looked to be on the verge of the sack after Alex Neil's side won 2-1 in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in December.

"It is always difficult to play against a team fighting to maintain their place in the Premier League," Van Gaal added.

"That is no excuse, we have to cope with that. They won at Old Trafford, so we have to take revenge.

"It shall be a very tough game, but in spite of that we have to win."

Norwich boss Neil drew positives form his side's display at Arsenal last weekend but a narrow 1-0 defeat did nothing to ease their relegation concerns.

With Newcastle United and Sunderland -- the other contenders in the three-way battle to avoid the two remaining relegation places -- both picking up points, Norwich dropped to 19th place, two points adrift of safety.

It was also Norwich's third successive defeat and, having moved clear of the danger zone last month, they now appear to be on a downward slide that could lead to an immediate return to the Championship.

With three games remaining, Norwich need a lift, but centre-back Russell Martin remains confident they can survive.

"Newcastle have got two games left. For Sunderland, it's a big ask for them to win all three of their games," Martin said.

"So we win on Saturday before they have both played and we go back above them both. It's as simple as that. And that's what we have to go and do.

"Win against Manchester United and we go back above our rivals, it puts the pressure back on them and we'll still have a game in hand over Newcastle -- just like Sunderland.

"So if we win, it swings back in our favour again."



WRAP: English Premiership

23 October 2016, 09:33

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