Man United’s Solskajer slams festive fixture pile-up

Manchester United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts during a match between his club and Brighton at Old Trafford, Manchester. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 28 December 2019

Man United’s Solskajer slams festive fixture pile-up

  • The club to play its 2019 final league match on Saturday, just over 48 hours since a comeback win over Newcastle

LONDON: Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become the latest Premier League manager to complain about the “unfair” packed program of fixtures over Christmas and New Year.

United play their final league match of 2019 against Burnley on Saturday, just over 48 hours since competing a 4-1 comeback win over Newcastle.

Those matches form part of a sequence of seven games in 21 days that is hard to square with modern notions of rest and recovery.

But such is the commercial appeal of the traditionally congested program that change does not appear likely anytime soon, even though Jurgen Klopp, the manager of runaway leaders Liverpool said recently it was a “crime” for teams to have to play on both Dec. 26 and 27.

“I don’t think it is fair on the boys at all,” said United manager Solskjaer.

“I don’t think it is fair to be expected to perform at the best of your level, both mentally and physically, 48 hours after you have played.

“But I think we are in the best position to perform on Saturday. One — the game was over after 45 minutes. Two — we are young,” the former United striker added.

“We have a great chance against Burnley to perform at the best level because our boys, when you are 23, which is the average age of the outfield starting players (against Newcastle), that will make it easier for us to recover than Burnley, for example. I think.

“They played until the end against Everton. We were done after 45 minutes and used the second half as recovery.

“But it is not fair, especially when a game at Watford has just gone and there will be a game New Years’ Day.

“Two games in three days is possible once in a while but not when it is as tight as this.”

The Norwegian, asked if English football might change its ways, replied: “You are a traditionalist country. You like your traditions. I can’t see it being changed, no. But it should be.”

As for how he coped during his playing days, Solskjaer jokingly said: “It was easy for me. I was on the bench all the time! I never played 90 minutes twice in three days.

“Maybe I did one year. I scored against Villa and Ipswich. You have to look after yourself.

“You have to eat the right things, drink the right things, sleep well.”

Separately, United midfielder Paul Pogba decided to make a personal protest against racism following the ongoing “ignorance” demonstrated at football stadiums throughout Europe.

“No to racism” and “We are one” read the wristbands that Pogba asked his teammates to join him in wearing before the match, with the World Cup winner then presenting his to a young fan in the crowd.


Ibrahimovic’s return to training with Sweden’s Hammarby sparks rumors about future

Updated 10 April 2020

Ibrahimovic’s return to training with Sweden’s Hammarby sparks rumors about future

STOCKHOLM: AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to training in Sweden with Hammarby, the club he part owns, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to lockdown Italy, has fueled speculation regarding his future.

Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport reported the 38-year-old Ibrahimovic will choose against renewing his Milan deal which finishes at the end of the season.

The Swedish outfit’s president, Richard Von Yxkull, said the decision was in the hands of the attacker who played 116 times for his country before retiring from international duty in 2016.

“It’s about knowing how Zlatan sees his future and what he wants to do,” Von Yxkull told newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Earlier in April the Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch league winner said he wanted to stay in the game after retiring.

“I want to learn something new about football, with a different angle. I will contribute from the sidelines, not on the pitch,” he told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Ibrahimovic’s last Milan appearance was the loss to Genoa on March 8.

All football in Italy has been suspended due to the coronavirus which has claimed the lives of nearly 18,000 people in the country.

Measures to fight the outbreak in Sweden are lighter which have allowed Ibrahimovic to train with Stockholm’s Hammarby, a side which he bought a 25-percent share in last November.

Ibrahimovic started his career with hometown club Malmo before trophy-laden spells with some of the world’s biggest outfits including Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain before rejoining Milan in January.