Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned he will have to field weakened teams that could affect the battle for Champions League places due to Manchester United’s fixture pile-up.
Solskjaer is unhappy that United have to play four times in eight days, including two games in the space of 50 hours against top-four rivals Leicester and Liverpool next week.
The United manager insists he will protect his players against the risk of injury and rotate his squad, even if that means upsetting clubs who feel United aren’t putting out their best team.
After reaching the Europa League final by overcoming Roma on aggregate on Thursday night, United go to Aston Villa on Sunday followed by Leicester and Liverpool on Tuesday and Thursday.
“I’ve got to think about my players but I know there will be teams fighting for the Champions League places that will not think that’s Man United’s best team, that’s not the best players,” said Solskjaer.
“That might be someone not happy with my team selection for one game or two games. That might affect whoever gets into the fourth position or the Champions League. That’s not my problem, that’s everyone else’s problem.
“I can promise you that it’s impossible to play 90 minutes at this intensity, at that level in the Premier League four times from Thursday to Thursday. That means I cannot play everyone every minute which means we’ve got to prioritise.”
Asked if that could benefit either Liverpool or Leicester, raising issues over the integrity of the competition, Solskjaer replied: “Depends what team I put out in what games. One of them might not be happy because I play a full team maybe in one and the next 11 in the other.
“If I’m going to look after the players, I’m going to make some decisions that will . . . yeah, of course, we just have to make decisions. “It’s got to be safe for the players. We want to try to put a good performance, a good product out there. But I cannot risk them so it has to be rotation — and it has to be a lot of rotation, a lot of decisions made on the day of the game.
“I just keep my fingers crossed that nobody gets injured. That’s going to be my biggest concern, injuries.
“Harry Maguire has played every minute for us in the Premier League since he came. I don’t think that’s possible now. That’s another record or another stat he could have been very proud of, but I can’t really see that happening now.”
The United manager promised that his team will try to make the best of a bad situation, but is still angry at being handed the exhausting run of games.
“I’ve never seen that schedule before, not in modern-day football,” added Solskjaer. “I’ve looked through and I know that Man United in 1991-92 had a very similar run-in and you can see how the results deteriorate.
“So, for me, we’ve been dealt a very bad hand by people who sit behind a desk in their suits who have never played football and understand what this is about.
“Sunday at 2pm is not the problem, that was always scheduled. Tuesday-Thursday after Thursday-Sunday, that’s a big problem”. — The Sun