As Leicester kick off at Chelsea on Tuesday night, United could be out of their reach. Amid the euphoria of a first FA Cup win, coming in second may be the last thing on Leicester’s mind, with Liverpool three points behind and Chelsea on their tail to qualify for the Champions League .
Whichever team Ole Gunnar Solskjaer chooses, they should be enough to take out the relegated Fulham.
Today is the day fans click the Old Trafford turnstiles for the first time in 436 days.
Leicester’s first FA Cup triumph was enriched by the return of their spectators, although the cacophony of noise that greeted the winner of Youri Tielemans was marred by deadly goal music. It was turned off for the roar of Leicester fans who hailed VAR’s decision to deny Chelsea an equalizer.
The fact that Wembley was three-quarters empty had no audible impact on the atmosphere. Sometimes the smaller the capacity, the louder the noise.
The incongruous timing of United’s ‘media day’ ahead of the Europa League final on Sunday was still relevant ahead of a week of twists and turns. Solskjaer needs to strike a balance between keeping the players fresh without overplaying them with the last eight days.
Sir Alex Ferguson faced a reserve side on the final matchday of 2008-09 at Hull, which left all of his Champions League final starters undercooked against Barcelona. Eight of the XIs in Rome hadn’t played in 11 days.
It would be foolish not to use some starters for Gdansk in any of this week’s domestic matches. Wolves are gone three days before United come to face Villarreal, so tonight is ripe for playing the majority of the regulars.
Young people involved?
Whether through his rosters or his substitutions, Solskjaer has been loyal to United’s base squad when opportunities arose to give the rookies exposure to the first team. Leicester’s side last week were an anomaly and in Rome neither Amad nor Anthony Elanga came to an agreement with United 7-2 on aggregate with a half to go.
If United are boxing second tonight, mass rotation is more likely at Wolves on Sunday. That said, Solskjaer will want to keep the undefeated away from the Premier League, so Hannibal Mejbri’s breakthrough could be postponed until next season.
James and Martial involved?
Solskjaer is overly diplomatic at times and some of his players barely have to believe some of his Zoom sound bites. He said on Sunday that Anthony Martial and Daniel James, who are expected to return tonight, could play their part in the final squad next week. It is of little use to analyze even the remoteness of this possibility.
That said, having James and Martial on the bench in Poland would give United more offensive options.
Old Trafford Swan Songs?
Juan Mata is out of contract next month and this could be his last appearance at Old Trafford for United. David de Gea’s future is also questionable, given the unsustainable dynamic with him and Dean Henderson on the same team. Paul Pogba’s future is also uncertain.
De Gea has been United’s standout player for the past decade and has earned the right to start next week’s final. Mata gave United United players some of their happiest days of the post-Ferguson era.