December 7, 2021

Solskjaer admits concerns over players’ mental health

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The Manchester United boss also revealed that he is eager to rest star midfielder Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken in favour of increased matchday squads, as he believes isolation takes a mental toll on those not involved.

Solskjaer is preparing his side for a meeting with Istanbul Basaksehir in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

As well as being afforded the opportunity to make five substitutes, which cuts down the chances of players becoming fatigued, he will also be able to select a larger matchday squad than is allowed in the Premier League.

When United travelled to Istanbul earlier in November, Solskjaer had 12 players on the bench during the 2-1 defeat.

The expanded matchday squads allowed in Europe give managers more options from a tactical standpoint, but Solskjaer feels there is an intangible benefit in that the players benefit mentally from being involved as opposed to being in isolation at home.

“So I like the five subs, I also like the size of the squads because the players feel involved, especially during lockdown,” Solskjaer said. “Sometimes if you’re told you’re not in the squad you’ve got to stay at home and you can’t go and see your friend or see the game with a friend. 

“That’s another mental welfare that we have to look after with the players, so Champions League, I like it.”

United occupy top spot in Champions League Group H ahead of Tuesday’s game, but their position is not secure following the shock loss in Turkey on November 4.

Solskjaer does not have the luxury of being able to rotate his squad, but he has admitted he wants to get a breather into midfielder Bruno Fernandes at some stage.

The Portuguese is pivotal to how United play, but the Red Devils are heading into a period of 11 games before the turn of the year and Solskjaer wants to give his star man a rest.

“Bruno is not going to be able to play every single game, that’s for sure,” Solskjaer said. “So when he only played one-and-a-half games with Portugal during the international break I was very happy.”

Following the game with Basaksehir, United travel to Southampton and that may be a game Fernandes sits out as immediately after that match is a clash with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.