Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has described the scheduling of their 3-1 victory over Everton as an “absolute joke”.
United returned from their embarrassing Champions League defeat against Istanbul Basaksehir in the early hours of Thursday morning yet had to kick off at Goodison Park at 12.30pm on Saturday.
Solskjaer blamed the quick turnaround for injuries to Luke Shaw (hamstring), Victor Lindelof (back) and Marcus Rashford (shoulder) as even a Bruno Fernandes double to ease the pressure on him as manager failed to raise the mood.
“How can you expect players to perform to the best of their ability when you send them out at 1230? Absolute joke,” he said.
“A month ago we tried to move this game. What sense is there for us to play on a Saturday when we could play on the Sunday and there is an international break afterwards?
“I can’t say enough how hard these times are for everyone, not just footballers, and we want to see football with quality.
“Our players were set up to fail today with the schedule. I pushed my club to really fight the kick-off time on this one to give us at least half a chance but it was quashed.”
United, who equalled the 1993 club league record of seven-successive away victories, led for longer in this match (58 minutes) than they have in their other six combined (43 minutes) after Fernandes’ goals put them ahead following Bernard’s opener, with substitute Edinson Cavani scoring his first for the club in second-half added time.
However, the victory was not without cost and Solskjaer left Goodison concerned about the fitness of at least three players.
“They will be assessed and hopefully it is not too serious but they (Shaw and Rashford) looked in a bad way there towards the end,” he added.
“It doesn’t look great. Victor hopefully is not too bad but it is his back as well.
“When it is a serious injury it is not worth the points but we got the three points today and the boys were not going to give anyone the chance to take three points off us as they were so determined.
“I don’t really want to lighten the mood. I think it is such a serious issue, they are not robots they are human beings and they are asked to perform.
“Towards the end of the game we didn’t have the intensity to our game.
“Bruno is a leader and showed a lot of desire and the reaction from everyone was great today.”
Everton, the Premier League’s early pace-setters, have now taken just one point from their last four matches and conceded at least two goals in each of their last five games.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti, who has lost three-successive league matches for the first time since November 2006 with AC Milan, was not happy with their defending.
“It was not a good performance in one aspect and that was defensively. After we scored a goal we were not able to defend properly,” said the Italian.
“It is quite clearly a problem and we have to sort this.”