Furious Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is planning sweeping changes during Manchester United’s run of four matches in eight days, saying the knock-on effects in the top-four race is “everyone else’s problem”.
Last Sunday’s Premier League clash with rivals Liverpool was called off after fans got into Old Trafford and onto the pitch during an anti-Glazer protest.
Eyebrows were raised at the postponed fixture being moved to next Thursday, especially with their home match against third-placed Leicester brought forward to Tuesday after playing at Aston Villa on Sunday.
United’s three top-flight fixtures in five days comes after Thursday’s intense Europa League semi-final second leg at Roma, where they lost 3-2 but triumphed 8-5 on aggregate to reach the final against Villarreal.
Asked if he could name completely different line-ups from one match to another during this period, Solskjaer said: “Yeah. Two games in three days is difficult but you can accept that. We do that at Christmas.
“Two games in three days after a long season, with all the games we’ve had, even more difficult. Three games in five days, very, very, very difficult. Almost impossible. And four games in eight, it is impossible.
“But I think you all know me – I hope you do, anyway. We’ll take the challenge head on.
“I’m not sitting here sulking but I’m just saying someone there does not understand the physicality of the Premier League.
“It’s the best league in the world. I don’t know how you can defend playing these three games in such a short space of time.
“I’ve got to look after the players. 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.”
Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, general secretary of FIFPRO, the world players’ union, has said United’s schedule of four matches in a week is “not physically possible”.
Solskjaer said he has never seen this schedule in “modern day football”, pointing to the deterioration in results when United last played three league games in five days in 1991-92.
The Norwegian said “we’ve been dealt a very bad hand by people who sit behind a desk in their suits who’ve never played football” as he spoke about the wellbeing of his group.
“I’ve got to think about my players,” Solskjaer said. “But I know there will be teams fighting for the Champions League places that will not think that’s Man United’s best team in that team, that’s not the best players.
“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.”
Solskjaer says he has not been told the rationale behind the scheduling but is attempting to maintain focus on Sunday’s “big game” at Aston Villa.
“I feel for the players, I feel for the team,” he said. “I feel for them having had this fantastic season, got to a final.
“I’m sat here answering these questions and not about the run-in.
“They’ve worked their socks off. They’ve been absolutely brilliant and I’m just very, very happy for them that we’ve got to this place.
“We just have to do our best. It’s another challenge for us and, please, you can see I’m not happy with it, I’m not sulking.
“It’s one of the things that I know my players will take head on and we as a group will be stronger for it when we come out of it.
“I just keep my fingers crossed that no one will get 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 that he could have been very, very proud of but I can’t really see that happening now.”
Talk is abuzz about another fan protest against the owners at the rearranged Liverpool match, while the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust is waiting for a response to their letter to co-chairman Joel Glazer.
“The communication between the club and the fans is ongoing,” Solskjaer added.
“Hopefully we can get an end to all the speculation and definitely the violence. That’s not something we want to see.
“We want to focus on football. My job is focusing on football and we have three games to win in five days.”
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1