Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has seen his side ravaged by injury throughout the early part of his inaugural campaign in England. It seems as if each time the Dutch boss receives some positive news on the injury front, he’s dealt a fresh blow to his squad which in-turn hampers his team selection.

The area on the pitch where United can least afford an injury setback would undoubtedly be in defense. And, as luck would have it, the most notable injuries this season have been to the club’s back four.

Despite having to play matches with teenagers and midfielders lining up as defenders and wing-backs, Van Gaal has found a way to direct United to third place on the Premier League table heading into the busy holiday period.

According to the English publication the Manchester Evening News, left-back Luke Shaw has handed his manager an early Christmas present by returning to training and could be in-line for a return to the United lineup on Friday.

The 19-year-old defender, who signed from Southampton for £30 million this summer, has already had two spells away from his new club due to injury. He was also briefly sidelined while Van Gaal “improved” his fitness levels during United’s pre-season tour of the United States.

After an inauspicious debut with United, Shaw had impressed many with his performances against league-leading Chelsea, second place Manchester City and Crystal Palace in late-October and early Novemeber.

Unfortunately for United, the left-back took a knock early on during the November 22nd match against Arsenal at the Emirates and had to be substituted after only 15 minutes.

But Shaw now looks set to return to Van Gaal’s starting eleven for the Boxing Day clash against Newcastle United.

In other encouraging news for United, the Manchester Evening News reports that defenders Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo are also in contention for the match day squad against Newcastle.

It is also understood the midfielder Marouane Fellaini’s absence this weekend for United’s game against Aston Villa was due to an “illness”. So it appears the Belgian international will be ready for a return to Van Gaal’s starting eleven on Boxing Day.

Ander Herrera was another player who missed this weekend’s contest at Villa Park. The midfielder took to his Instagram and Facebook accounts on Saturday to disclose that he had picked up “a small muscular injury”, but reassured United fans that he would be ready to play again soon.

Following the 1-1 draw with the Villans, Herrera posted this comment (accompanied by a picture of his teammates celebrating Radamel Falcao’s tying-goal) to further calm the nerves of club supporters who have been shell shocked by United’s staggering injury toll this season:

“Great job guys! One more point that keeps us at the top. I could not help the team by a small muscular problem, but soon will be ready again.”

Programming note: Manchester United vs. Newcastle United will be shown LIVE on NBC Sports Network at 10:00am on Boxing Day (Friday)