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Three games in five days: Solskjaer blasts EPL over United’s fixture congestion

MANCHESTER United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been heavily critical of the organisers of the Premier League concerning his side’s schedule for the run-in.

The Red Devils will play three matches in five days as the league body squeezed in the home game against Liverpool which was postponed from last Sunday following fan protests at Old Trafford.

United will travel to Aston Villa on Sunday, then host Leicester City and Liverpool on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

“I’ve never seen that schedule before in modern day football,” Solskjaer told his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s trip to Villa Park.

“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 (they lost three of their final four games and missed out on the title).

“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.”

Solskjaer, who steered United to the UEFA Europa League final on Thursday, suggested that he would field weakened teams in some of the matches.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The fixtures against Liverpool and Leicester City could be important in the race for UEFA Champions League spots for both teams.

But with United in second place and almost sure of finishing in the top four positions, Solskjaer insisted he was more concerned about his own team, and not how others fared.

He added: “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.

“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.

“Sunday two o’clock is not the problem, that was always scheduled. Tuesday-Thursday after Thursday-Sunday, that’s a big problem.”

When asked if he could field completely different line-ups for each of the three games, Solskjaer hinted that he could.

“Yeah. As I said, two games in three days is difficult but you can accept that, we do that at Christmas,” he explained.

“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.

“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.”

Solskjaer added that Edinson Cavani could stay for one more season after his impressive campaign so far this term.

The 34-year-old Uruguayan striker has had an excellent first season at Old Trafford but there has been intense speculation that he could leave for South America at the end of the campaign.

“We don’t have a time limit (to negotiate), 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,” Solskjaer offered.

“So let’s just talk after Sunday again, hopefully. Maybe he’s decided.”

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