The last home game of the season ended in a 1-1 draw after Paul Pogba gave away a penalty. Mason Greenwood stepped up again to help United grab a point. A result which still puts United in third but a draw that surely no fan wanted.
The pandemic resulted in an extremely tight schedule in the Premier League. On average players had to play a game every three or four days. With the games coming thick and fast, the league introduced a new five-sub rule to help avoid injuries. Even drink breaks were enforced to help footballers combat the summer heat. Unfortunately for United, this may have not been enough. You could say due to a lack of depth the Red Devils are feeling the burden of being overworked. Since the restart, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer resorted to playing the same starting eleven. One which performed exceptionally early on, but it wasn’t until the Southampton game where you noticed a drop off in intensity. And just this week that tiredness was perpetuated against West Ham. The saying ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ seemed rational when United were winning comfortably and players were scoring for fun. But little rest has fatigued this team going into the last game against Leicester City. A game where United’s opponents have had a whole week off.
As well as fatigue you can also question the mental strength of this squad. It’s something which this club has been suffering with for longer than just the restart. Over the years and more recently, United have been gifted opportunities to capitalise but failed. In matches against Southampton and West Ham United, we’ve failed to reply the way we had to. In the recent game against West Ham, fatigue was an issue but the approach to the game was also negative. There was a lot of sideways passing and an evident inability to break down a penned back team, it felt like they were playing slightly within themselves. You start to think is this side confident anymore? The game against Chelsea proved that even the coaching staff are now more reserved. Playing five at the back in an FA cup semi-final doesn’t echo a lot of belief or faith in the team. If they fail to be in the top four at the end of Sunday then you have to question whether the team is making any progress.
On Sunday, United will have their biggest test of the season. Can they combat being physically and mentally drained to make the top four. Leicester will no doubt go all out for the win. Having had a week off, United’s opponents will play with high intensity. It will tell us exactly where this team stands, in terms of match sharpness. The players’ fitness will be tested as well as the mental strength to play against the pressure on and off the field. Win or lose the result on Sunday will shape where this team goes in a year or two’s time.