There is very much a sense of unfinished business to be dealt with in and around the Manchester United camp as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men get set for the return of football following the easing of the lockdown rules after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Solskjaer’s side were enjoying a reasonable run of form when the season was halted abruptly because of the global coronavirus crisis. They had Champions League football in their sights for next season and to claim this they had Chelsea as their target. And still do. The Blues are currently in fourth place — the spot needed to grab a place with Europe’s elite next term — yet remain only three points behind Frank Lampard’s site.
So, victory in their comeback top-flight match is imperative and United have an almost a fully fit squad available for the game at Tottenham Hotspur, at an empty Tottenham Hotspur Stadium because of the restrictions on large gatherings, on Friday night.
Paul Pogba, for so long a frustrated onlooker in the first part of the Premier League season for the Old Trafford outfit, has a great chance of being in the squad along with the likes of Marcus Rashford (who was side-lined with a foot injury as well as a sore back). Also available, potentially, is defender Eric Bailly and Andreas Pereira while striker Odion Ighalo is available once more after extending his loan from Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Greenland Shenhua until January of next year. A great move.
Solskjaer has a squad full of richly talented players from which to choose, and also can benefit from the new rules voted in that allow five substitutions from nine — instead of seven players — on the bench. The head coach is hopeful that the fitness levels will be fine as his charges take on Jose Mourinho’s men.
Speaking to the official Manchester United club website, he said:
“We hope everybody’s going to be ready for the first game. We’ve had time out so I don’t think we can expect that those lads who’ve missed lots of the football can last the full game. But now the rules have changed, we can use five subs and have nine on the bench.
“I think that’s helpful because footballers, after being out for so long, going into competitive games will be a challenge for them and we have to look after them injury-wise and fitness-wise. We can’t just flog one player and say to them, ‘you play every game and every minute’ because it might be a period when we have to rotate quite often.”
Following the game in north London against Spurs, United then take on Sheffield United with the Blades visiting the Theatre of Dreams on June 24. Next up after that match is an FA Cup clash at Norwich City on June 27. Exciting times for United… and Champions League football is the main quest!