Read Solskjaer's pre-Villa press conference
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has acknowledged that Manchester United will need to rotate players, ahead of a busy upcoming Premier League schedule that will see us play three games in five days.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the first of those fixtures, Sunday's trip to Aston Villa, the boss said it was "impossible" to play so many games at such a high intensity in such a short period of time, meaning that even Harry Maguire - an ever-present in the top flight since his capture from Leicester in 2019 - may need to be rested.
Read the full transcript, including Ole's thoughts on Villa and the future of Edinson Cavani, below...
“I’ve never seen that schedule before in modern day football. I’ve looked through and I know Man United in 91/92 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 suits who have never played football and don’t understand what this is about. If I’m going to look after the players, I’m going to make some decisions. We’ll just have to make some decisions. I’ve got to look after the players, that’s the biggest thing, injuries to players and that’s too much of an injury risk. This year has been so difficult, we’re happy to put games on, it’s so important to be safe with security around, I understand all this, it’s got to be safe for the players. We want to try to put a good product out there, at the moment, it looks difficult, but knowing these boys they’ll take the challenge head on. Knowing me, I’ll take the challenge head on but I cannot risk them, so it has to be rotation. It has to be a lot of rotation and decisions made on the day of the game. We can’t prepare for the game which every team does, they get a week or two, or 10 days or five days, this is someone else dealing hands.”
Just to follow up on that, I was just wondering how crucial these type of fixtures are for you now? You have a gap down to Leicester in third place and, in many ways, have secured a Champions League spot but how crucial can this set be for you and also, do you have to be worried for the players with three games in five days?
“I’ve got to think about my players, but I know the other teams fighting for the Champions League place will not. They will not think ‘oh, that’s not Man United’s best team, that’s not the best players’ and I can promise you that it is impossible to play 90 minutes four times at this intensity, at that level, in the Premier League, from Thursday to Thursday. That means I cannot play everyone in every minute, so we have got to prioritise.”
Hi Ole, you’ve spoken about how tough this season has been and how well the players have played to get into this position, do you think there is a risk you may drop down the table, or you may lose games you wouldn’t do normally and you’re risking your place in the Champions League next year because of something out of your control?
“I trust my players to get a result. First of all, Sunday is a big game for us. Sunday is a massive game and we’re looking forward to it after the boost of a final which will probably give us energy, hopefully give us energy and then let’s see what we do Tuesday and Thursday. We’ve just got to take it day-by-day and hopefully we can play those games.”
Ole, did you ask for this run to be moved, even a few hours further into Sunday? The two o’clock seems to be extra unhelpful to you.
“Sunday two o’clock is not the problem, that was always scheduled. Tuesday-Thursday after Thursday-Sunday, that’s a big problem.”
Hi Ole, sorry to continue the theme. Because you’ve got so many games in a short space of time, you’ve talked about rotation, is it going to be a situation where you have to put one XI out in one game and then, two days later, have to put out a completely different XI?
“Yeah. As I said, 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 is even more difficult. Three games in five days is very, very difficult, almost impossible. And four games in eight, it is impossible. But I think you all know me or I hope you do anyway. We’ll take the challenge head on and I’m not sitting here sulking but I’m just saying some there do 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 so short a space of time and I have to look after the players. That might be somebody not happy with my selection for one game or two games and that might affect whoever gets into the fourth position or Champions League but that’s not my problem. That’s everyone else’s problem.”
United have a strong record against Villa and are unbeaten in 21 Premier League away games [against them], how are you approaching the game with Villa also still without Jack Grealish?
“I think they’re a very good team, you saw them last week beat Everton. They’ve had a very good season, they had a little spell with some worse results but we played them in a pre-season friendly before this season, and lost. We won a hard-fought game 2-1 at Old Trafford, we know it’s going to be tough but we’re looking forward to it. You know the energy that we used tonight will probably be filled up twice because of getting to a final. I think we’ll recover, refuel. We’re looking forward to this game, the players are looking forward to it, they know it’s a big game for us.”
Is fixture congestion punishment for the scenes at the weekend and do you think Joel Glazer will respond to the supporters' trust by Friday’s deadline?
“I haven’t got a completely good reasoning behind why it had to be like this, but, as I said, it’s not with my players' minds anyway and the communication between the club and the fans is ongoing and, hopefully, we can get an end to all the speculation and definitely the violence. That is not something we want to see. We want to focus on football, my job is focusing on football and we’ve got three games to win in five days.”
Is the fixture pile-up an advantage to the top-four rivals playing a potentially weakened United team?
“It depends what team I put out in what games. One of them might not be happy because I play a full team for one and the next XI in the other.”
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What would you say to those that say United should suffer because it was their fault and the fans that stopped the game going ahead?
“I feel for my players, I feel for the team, 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 the best we can, 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 them 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, he’s played every minute for us in the Premier League since he came. I don’t think that’s possible now. That’s another stat that he could have been very, very proud of but I can’t really see that happening now.”
Tonight showed why you want Edinson Cavani to stay and you want him to stay, but it is his decision. Do you have a time limit on when that needs to be decided by?
“We don’t have a time limit, but the more goals he scores, the better we become as a team and the bigger the chance is that he’ll want to have this feeling again. So let’s just talk after Sunday again, hopefully. Maybe he’s decided.”