Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was complaining about the fitness levels of his Manchester United squad just a couple of days after his best day in the job, when his side won in Paris to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Back in March 2019 Solskjaer knew his players didn’t have the fitness reserves to sustain the style he’d asked of them for his first three months in the job and sooner or later they would just stop in their tracks. It happened sooner rather than later and a run of two wins in the final 12 games of last season was partly blamed on diminishing energy levels.
Solskjaer said in the run-up to the trip to Arsenal the weekend after victory in Paris that he wanted his team to be the fittest in the league, no excuses, but towards the end of his first full season in charge that looks to still be some way off.
The Norwegian has partly been constrained since the Premier League restarted by the lack of depth in his squad, forcing him to field his in-form first XI time and time again. Given the busy schedule since Project Restart it was always going to be a difficult task to maintain performance levels, but the drop in energy has been startling.
It began against Southampton at the start of last week and since then United have looked more and more jaded with each passing game. Against West Ham they were out on their feet for the final quarter and West Ham looked the more likely to snatch a late winner.
Mason Greenwood was the liveliest of United’s front five but Marcus Rashford, in particular, looked exhausted, while Bruno Fernandes wasn’t far behind him. Getting one final performance out of these players is going to be a monumental challenge for Solskjaer on Sunday.