Solskjaer claims Chelsea given ‘unfair’ advantage for semi-final
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit out at the “unfair” scheduling of Man- chester United’s FA Cup semi-final on Sunday amid concern Chelsea have been handed an advantage.
United face Crystal Palace in a crucial Premier League game at Selhurst Park tonight knowing they will have had 48 hours less to prepare for their Wembley showdown than Chelsea, who beat Norwich City 1-0 on Tuesday night.
And Solskjaer has raised questions about how the fixtures have been scheduled.
“There is a concern, obviously, that they [Chelsea] will have had 48 hours’ more rest and recovery than us. It’s not fair,” the United manager said. “We spoke about a fair scheduling going into this restart and, of course, it isn’t. But I have to think about Thursday, winning that one [against Palace], focusing on that one, and then pick up the pieces after that.”
Solskjaer insisted he would not pick his team against Palace with Sunday’s game in mind, knowing wins from their final three league matches will guarantee qualification for next season’s Champions League. But the United manager has been considering giving Paul Pogba a rest and has a decision to make at left-back, with Luke Shaw struggling with a twisted ankle and Brandon Williams requiring six stitches to a cut around his left eye following Monday’s 2-2 draw against Southampton.
Solskjaer believes his side are far fitter now than they were towards the end of last season and expects his players to cope against Chelsea, but he is not impressed by the scheduling. “It’s not going to be a problem and a concern for us, but 24 hours, 48 hours is a big difference at this time [of the season] so we’ve not been handed four aces, to put it that way, for the last two weeks,” he said.
“But we’re going to have to put on a poker face and play the cards well. The next two weeks will be hectic but we’re very fit – our lads have not felt as fit as this for years.
“It was a big thing towards the end of last season that we felt our team wasn’t fit enough, we got a few injuries. This season we’ve not had that kind of a problem.”
Solskjaer believes Pogba’s form
has made him indispensable but, after six months out following ankle surgery, the manager said he would discuss the midfielder’s fitness with him before Palace after starting the Frenchman in the last five league games. “I’ve been speaking more or less every day with Paul,” he said.
“He knows that he wouldn’t be dropped. When Paul plays like this he wouldn’t be dropped from any team in the world – France or Man United – but he’s been out for a long, long time. There was a question mark before the game [against Southampton], ‘How do you feel?’ But he felt ready for it, which was great, so now let’s see how he is today or even tomorrow morning.”
Solskjaer has also stressed the continuing importance of Uefa’s financial fair play rules, despite critics claiming they have been severely undermined by Manchester City successfully overturning their two-year European ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“With FFP, it was brought in to keep football clubs financially sustainable and that’s important and they give us rules, that’s what we’re focusing on and let other people discuss the rights and wrongs,” he said.