Manchester United lost ground in the race for the Premier League top four going into the festive period with a 2-0 loss against Watford yesterday.
United were lifeless for much of the match against the basement boys, which came days after an EFL Cup quarter-final win over Colchester.
Some senior stars played in both matches, so did Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midweek team selection influence the result at Vicarage Road?
Solskjaer criticised his side’s tempo
Solskjaer was not impressed with the tempo his side played at, quoted by the Guardian saying: “I’m very disappointed. You have to come to these stadiums and get more points, but there was no intent or urgency to make us win this game.
“The first half it could easily have been my testimonial. It was very subdued, slow, no tempo, and in the end we gave them two goals.”
Four players – Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – started both matches within a matter of days.
Did it influence United?
It really shouldn’t have done. United have a relatively thin squad but still managed to make seven changes for the game in midweek, which was eventually won at a canter.
That the burden was put on key men like Rashford and Maguire may have influenced the result, but if United’s top stars are struggling for fitness now, the hectic festive period is going to hit them like a train.
Top players should have the mentality and the fitness to play multiple games in a week at high intensity.
United got some confidence from big wins against Tottenham and Manchester City, slackened off the pace and dropped five points from matches against strugglers Everton and Watford.
For Manchester United to play any match at ‘testimonial’ pace is simply not good enough and reflects incredibly poorly on the squad and Solskjaer. It’s not just a question of fitness.
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