When the European Championship kicks off next week Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might take up a regular viewing position behind his sofa.
After a gruelling 12 months, many of Manchester United’s star men are having to wait before they get the chance to put their feet up. And how they need a rest.
Since the resumption of football last season on June 19 United have played 75 games in less than 12 months. It’s no wonder some of their players are beginning to show signs of fatigue. Thanks to their European commitments at the end of last season they had barely two weeks off before the new campaign began.
It’s been relentless and it’s not over yet. Euro 2020 begins in nine days and at least two United players are going into the tournament carrying an injury.
While United were able to extricate 19-year-old Mason Greenwood from the provisional 33-man squad on Friday, allowing him time to rest having played with a minor injury for two months, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford have both made the cut.
Yesterday Gareth Southgate admitted Maguire was facing a battle to be fit for England’s first group stage game against Croatia on June 13 and he didn’t know if he’d be available for any of the group stage fixtures. The United captain hasn’t trained since injuring ankle ligaments on May 9.
England have had their medical staff assess Maguire in Manchester, but Rashford has given them his word he is ready for tournament football. The forward has been playing through shoulder and foot injuries at times this season and has clearly looked in need of a rest towards the end of the season, with his nightmare performance in the Europa League final in Gdansk the best example.
Relations between United and the FA were strained over Greenwood last September, with the club unhappy he was put up for media duties ahead of a game in Iceland. After that fixture he was sent home, along with Phil Foden, for breaching COVID-19 protocols at the team hotel in Reykjavik.
But since then Solskjaer and Southgate have kept a lid on any potential club v country row and in discussing Greenwood’s departure from the squad the England manager made it clear he’d spoken to Solskjaer about it. Whether the fitness of Maguire and Rashford and the strain they’ve been under this season was mentioned in that call we can only speculate while the cordiality remains in public.
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It wouldn’t be a surprise if United had concerns, however, especially over Maguire. We can imagine the reaction if England had called up two United players struggling with injuries on Sir Alex Ferguson’s watch.
Relations have improved since those days, when United and the FA were regularly at loggerheads, and Solskjaer will be aware that for Maguire and Rashford the chance of representing their country in what is essentially a home tournament for England is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That England have a realistic chance of winning the European Championship will only add to their desperation to take part.
So now all Solskjaer and United can do is cross their fingers and hope. They will be keeping a close eye on Maguire and Rashford, especially, but also on Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, with the former in particular heading into a tournament with Portugal on the back of a demanding season with United.