Thursday 6 May 2021

United facing fixture pile up in frantic fight to the finish

With the postponement of the Liverpool tie after a seismic weekend at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Reds face an exhausting finish to the 2020-21 season.

The hastily re-arranged home game with the men from Merseyside will now take on Thursday, 13 May, in other words a week from now. It comes a mere 50 hours after Leicester visit Old Trafford, with the fixture against the third-placed Foxes moved back a day to the Tuesday (11 May) with a 6pm kick off, in order to squeeze in the Liverpool match. Liverpool's game at West Brom - which was thought might be moved to a midweek slot to accomodate the United fixture - will remain on Sunday 16 May as scheduled. 

An already packed and heavily congested schedule has been further rejigged in order to fit in United's five remaining league games, plus the Europa League final which is scheduled three days after the culmination of the Premier League campaign, on Wednesday 26 May in Gdansk, Poland. 

As United head to the Eternal City to complete the job against AS Roma in the Europa League, it kicks off a frantic schedule for Solskjaer's United which will see us play four games in the space of a week, and three in five. Our revised fixture list is as follows:

Thursday 6 May (tonight) - AS Roma (A) - 8pm
Sunday 9 May - Aston Villa (A) - 2.05pm
Tuesday 11 May - Leicester City (H) - 6pm
Thursday 13 May - Liverpool (H) - 8.15pm

United's penultimate game of the league season will see relegation-threatened Fulham - Scott Parker's Cottagers could already be down by then - as the last visitors to M16 in 2020-21 on Tuesday 18 May with a 6pm kick off. If the Government's planned roadmap out of lockdown remains on track, a limited number of fans could return to Old Trafford in time for the Fulham tie, with more information expected on 10 May over whether restrictions can be eased further by this date. 

The Reds travel to Molineux and face Wolves in league match no.38 on Sunday 23 May where Solskjaer will surely have one eye on that impending European final, rounding off our domestic schedule at the end of a season like no other. 

With United already secure in the top four and with little chance of catching City for the title, these league  fixtures are effectively dead rubbers which should allow Solskjaer more room to manoeuvre when it comes to his team selections.
Squad rotation and management will be key as there's no way he can put out our strongest XI for every game. Every player in the squad will need to be utilised to his maximum otherwise the team will suffer from burnout and could go into Gdansk heavily overcooked - with the risk of fatigue, injury or burnout. 

Two wins against Villa and Leicester should make sure of second spot - where Solskjaer says he wants us to finish - so that means, in theory, a weaker XI against Liverpool. But despite the fact there is little riding on it from our point of view, the Liverpool game always means something as the biggest fixture in the English calendar as the country's two biggest, most successful and widely supported clubs go toe-to-toe. Solskjaer will want a strong side to go full throttle for that one, so he may opt to rotate against Leicester - four points and a place below us - saving his key men for the visit of Jurgen Klopp's deposed champions. With no rest and only a day between these two matches, Solskjaer's selections for both will be intruiging.

Football is a squad game and never has that old adage been truer here: the likes of Donny van de Beek, Juan Mata, Brandon Williams, Dan James, Eric Bailly and Alex Telles can expect more involvement in these fixtures as Solskjaer will be forced to shuffle his pack to cater for the rapid turnaround. 

1 comment:

  1. Goodness this is where we could lose out the squad player's have never been more important.