Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has claimed that his side have been handed a ‘big disadvantage’ compared to sides around them thanks to their hectic schedule, as they gear up for their Sunday evening clash with West Ham.
The Red Devils have played a total of 56 games this season: 33 in the Premier League, 12 in the Europa League and a further 11 in domestic cup competitions, while they have six more games to play before their campaign comes to a close.
Combined with their lack of rotation (Casemiro has started every game he has been available, while Rashford has featured at every possible opportunity too), it has left the side with a somewhat leggy look in the final stretch of the season, as they showed in their 1-0 defeat to Brighton in midweek.
And Ten Hag was quick to point this out.
‘We have a big disadvantage compared to the others’, The United boss told the media ahead of his side’s clash with the Hammers.
‘West Ham is the team with the worst schedule. We showed the whole season we can deal with it. We are physically and mentally very strong.’
In a season that was already due to be disrupted by the World Cup, there have been additional fixture changes as a result of the death of Queen Elizabeth and the crowning of King Charles, which is the reason behind Manchester United’s late kick off against the Hammers.
Eagle-eyed fans will point out that some of the congestion is their own doing; had they managed to top their Europa League group (as Arsenal did) they would have avoided two games, while they are also victims of their own success in the cup competitions, which has often seen them kick off every three days.
However, they are on the cusp of success. Should they take nine points from their final five games of the season, they will ensure that they play Champions League football once again next season, while they could also manage a domestic double if they can defeat Manchester City in the FA Cup final, a game that may be the last chance to deny their City rivals a famous treble, matching United’s 1999 effort.