The evening kickoff on Saturday is taking place at Old Trafford and sees the visit of League One side Sheffield United (KO 17:30).
The football has been somewhat overshadowed by Utd boss Van Gaal’s response to speculation regarding Pep Guardiola being linked to the Man Utd job.
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Van Gaal will be hoping that his side’s football does the talking on Saturday. United are likely to field a mixture of fringe players and younger players as it will not take a full strength XI to see off the challenge of the visitors.
Van Gaal has publicly stated that several of his players are far from full fitness and has complained about the lack of a winter break in English football.
As a result of this fatigue, the squad is likely to be utilised through rotation.
The home side’s last two results have seen some of the pressure taken away from Van Gaal, after a run of four consecutive defeats had his job on the line, with the Dutchan telling ESPN that actually the dressing room atmosphere maybe ‘too good’:
I think the atmosphere in our dressing room is very good. Maybe too good because they are always protecting the dressing room, their colleagues. That is very good, until a certain point.
With the ongoing availability of Jose Mourinho, and future availability of Pep Guardiola, Van Gaal is unable to feel secure in his role.
A more attacking performance in a goalless draw against Chelsea followed by a 2-1 home victory to Swansea have seen some much needed threat return to what has been a lacklustre side.
According to the BBC, despite recalling Adnan Januzaj from loan, the player will not be available on Saturday as he has not regained sufficient fitness.
Phil Jones’ ankle complaint will keep him out of the side.
Sheffield United had been on an impressive run of form to end 2015, going five games undefeated, with four victories and a draw.
The side started the year on a less impressive note, however, losing 3-2 against Peterboro at home.
The chances of eighth placed Sheffield United of pulling off an upset have been boosted by the news that goal threat Matt Done’s hamstring issue has eased sufficiently for him to play.
Sheffield United have often lived up to their billing of unlikely underdogs in the cup, having won five of their last six cup fixtures against teams of a higher position.
Anything other than a win for the home side is likely to renew speculation about Van Gaal’s job security.
The main challenge for United is to finish chances rather than slipping back into a possession based game which rarely looks to attack. It may be the last chance for several of United’s fringe players to make an impression on the manager before potentially moving on in the January window.