Six games in 15 days: United face hectic period after winter break

Manchester United’s injury-hit and tired squad are currently embarking on a much-needed winter break.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will not take to the field again until Monday 17 February, when they travel to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

After that crucial match, United’s schedule gets even more hectic and it’s imperative Solskjaer manages his squad effectively.

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What’s coming up?

That trip to Chelsea could go a long way to deciding who will finish in the top four this season, so Solskjaer will likely be thrilled he has plenty of time to prepare.

The return of the Europa League follows three days later, when United travel to Belgium to face Club Brugge.

Less than 72 hours later, Solskjaer’s side host a Watford side who stunned them 2-0 around Christmas before the home second leg against Brugge the following Thursday.

To top off a frantic period of six games within 15 days, United travel to Everton in the Premier League before playing away at Derby for a place in the FA Cup quarter finals just over 48 hours later.

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How does Solskjaer manage his squad?

The current winter break should form a huge part of Solskjaer’s preparation for the hectic period to follow.

He must ensure players are getting enough rest to shake off any knocks and get over the fatigue which has accumulated due to a thin squad playing so much football already this season.

There is also the prospect of doing fitness work with the right players to make sure they’re primed and ready for the business end of the campaign.

Marcus Rashford cracked under the burden of too few nights off against Wolves last month, and Paul Pogba’s return from injury resulted in further setbacks.

Combined with the spate of injuries which came after Solskjaer’s appointment last season, there are legitimate questions to ask about his capability to manage the fitness of his squad.

Any inadequacies on that score will be swiftly exposed when United embark on their frantic run to come. The preparation should start now.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.