Despite making four substitutions at once to try and rescue Manchester United from FA Cup defeat to Leicester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he was right to make numerous changes to his side’s starting line-up ahead of Sunday’s quarter-final clash at the King Power Stadium.
The most notable absentees from United’s starting team were Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw. Solskjaer has often neglected opportunities to rest key players, particularly Fernandes, but took this chance to do so despite the upcoming international break.
After 65 minutes, Solskjaer brought both players on, replacing their understudies, as well as Edinson Cavani and Scott McTominay. It was a sign of a manager who knew so much needed to change. It was too little, too late.
Solskjaer: Making five changes was “necessary” despite defeat
However, speaking to BBC Sport after Sunday’s defeat, Solskjaer claimed he would make the same decisions again.
“I would’ve done the same again, the changes were necessary to do,” Solskjaer said.
“We knew Paul [Pogba] wouldn’t last more than an hour and I don’t think I would do anything differently. What goes on behind the scenes isn’t always known.”
Injuries certainly play in part. Donny van de Beek has only just returned from a while out and so joined Pogba, for whom the same is true, in coming off after an hour. Cavani is another who has come back recently.
United had no “spark” against Leicester, admits Solskjaer
“We didn’t have the spark tonight – but it’s understandable,” Solskjaer said.
“This team have been fantastic in the last three or four months. We played every three days and been on a great run. It just caught up with us, all the games and travels. Thursday night in Milan was a big night and took a lot of out of us physically. We didn’t have the extra zip, authority and confidence today.”
The United boss has questions to answer after Cup defeat. He does raise some important points, though. United have played more than double the number of games as Leicester in recent weeks. They have hardly had a break longer than three days since they started their season back in September. It has been utterly relentless.
Manchester United have only one hope of silverware left
After semi-final defeat to Manchester City in the EFL Cup and quarter-final defeat in the FA Cup to Leicester City, United and Solskjaer have only one remaining hope of silverware this season: the Europa League. The Reds play Granada CF in the quarter-finals having been knocked out of the competition at the semi-final stage last season.
“Yes, we would’ve liked to go to Wembley,” Solskjaer continued, “but now all the focus is on the games we do have. We’re in a good position in the league and we want to keep improving, of course Leicester are just behind us so it won’t be easy but we want to keep going and get as far as possible in the Europa as well.”
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