United Briefing: Bruno needed a breather
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer explained at the weekend that he had to leave Bruno Fernandes out of the starting line-up for the Emirates FA Cup tie at Leicester City for his own good.
The Portugal international may want to play every game but his prodigious physical output in Milan, as the Reds qualified for a quarter-final two-legged tie against Granada, and the flight back through Thursday night into Friday morning left the boss with little option but to start with our leading scorer on the bench.
"Bruno has played very, very much football," explained Ole. "He broke all his records on Thursday night [at the San Siro] physically, statistically, and the boy is not inhuman. I know Bruno wants to play but sometimes you make decisions for the benefit of both the team and him.”
Unfortunately, we do not have access to the Europa League distance metrics but we are able to reproduce the Premier League's official data for metres covered over the course of the 2020/21 season.
However, what must be taken into account is United's additional involvement in the Champions League, Europa League, League Cup and Emirates FA Cup this season.
The Reds have effectively been playing every 3.4 days since the last international break with the rearranged Crystal Palace fixture ensuring no respite. Of the six players higher up the distance-run chart, only one - Leicester City's Youri Tielemans - has also had to contend with European football this term.
West Ham's Tomas Soucek, Southampton schemer James Ward-Prowse, Burnley midfielder Ashley Westwood, West Ham skipper Declan Rice and Leeds United's Stuart Dallas have not had the extra midweek commitments.
Leicester, of course, went out of the Europa League to Slavia Prague in the previous round so had a week's grace before the United fixture, something Tielemans himself alluded to afterwards. "We knew they came from a European game on Thursday, which was a very quick turnaround for them," he told beIN Sports. "They've played a lot of games."
For context, we do know Fernandes ran 55,331m during the Champions League group stage earlier this season, playing 439 minutes of those six games, while he has been on the pitch for an additional 290 minutes in our four Europa League fixtures in 2021.
Tielemans made seven appearances throughout Leicester's Europa League campaign.
Meanwhile, our no.18 is expected to feature for Portugal in tonight's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan, which will take place in Turin due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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Elsewhere in the World Cup qualifiers, Donny van de Beek is in Turkey with the Netherlands squad. Daniel James and Dylan Levitt will hope to play for Wales against Belgium in Group E, with Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial in France's plans for the clash with Ukraine in Group D.
Former United striker Peter Davenport turns 60 and ex-keeper Raimond van der Gouw celebrates his 58th birthday.
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