Jose Mourinho has bemoaned Manchester United’s unceasingly busy fixture schedule following their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Arsenal on Sunday.
Man United went into the clash with Arsene Wenger’s men having played nine games over a hectic April period – a task accentuated in size by a growing injury list that saw seven senior players consigned to the treatment table by the time they faced Celta Vigo last week.
The onslaught is showing no signs of letting up, however, with games against Celta, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Crystal Palace and – provided United win or keep a clean sheet against the former on Thursday – Ajax in the Europa League final over the next two and a half weeks.
Mourinho, speaking after the defeat to Arsenal, noted that the accumulation of games was taking its toll on some of his players.
“I think we shouldn’t play two days before against Southampton. One thing is the game on Sunday, the other thing is accumulation,” he said.
“Accumulation is the problem. The problem is not to play once a match two days before. That’s not a problem. A problem is that we played since the last two months, we play every week – three matchs a week.
“And in the last week of the Premier League, we play Tottenham away, Southampton away, Crystal Palace at home. In seven days, three matches and then we are gong to play the final – if, if, I always say if to protect a situation.
“Lyon or Ajax, they finish the league. So the problem is the accumulation and not to play two matches before.
“You ask me, do I think the match should be played on Sunday if Crystal Palace is involved in relegation battle – of course I think the game has to be played at the same time as the other competitors. The prolem is the accumulation.
“And again I say if, if we play the final will be game number 17 in two months – April and May, game number 17.”
You could tell that some United players really were running on empty at the Emirates. Mourinho’s men have played 58 games this season, more than any other Premier League side, and the physical demands are becoming almost visibly apparent.
I mean, look at Matteo Darmian in the lead-up to Arsenal’s second as an example. He simply stands off, breathless and unable to process Alexis Sanchez’s movement in enough time – not because the Chilean eluded him, but because there comes a point, even for players at this level, when the physical demands are too much.
These players will, no doubt, have to dig deeper than ever before over the next few weeks in the pursuit of Champions League football.