Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that his overworking of Manchester United players after becoming caretaker manager in December culminated in a poor end to the 2018/19 campaign.
The Norwegian took over in December and presided over three months of sensational, joyous football during which he won 14 of his first 17 games, including a club record nine away wins in a row.
After the heroics of Paris, however, Man United managed a pathetic two wins from their last 12 games, leaving them firmly in sixth place.
Speaking in an interview earlier this week, Solskjaer noted how his training methods caused Man United players to hit the wall by around March.
Solskjær: "When I came here, I focused on the existing strengths within the team, as well as building some confidence. Perhaps we demanded a bit more [than the players were used to] in regards to their capacity to run." #mulive [tv2]
— utdreport (@utdreport) May 24, 2019
It is worth noting that United’s performances – both in terms of intensity and style – had dropped off before the victory over Paris Saint Germain. The players did not suddenly switch off. Recent games against Liverpool and Southampton had revealed the effects of Solskjaer’s ruthless training regimes, with players losing sharpness and often ending up on the injury table.
United’s first six months under Solskjaer ought to be viewed like a relay race in which the fourth runner is miles behind upon receiving the baton, and in response had to slam on the burners just to get level with his competitors, only to pass out in a great big heap as the home straight approached.
And it is no surprise. Under Jose Mourinho, United were often 20th in the Premier League for average kilometers covered per game. Against Tottenham Hotspur in January, however, United covered more kilometers than any other team that weekend. The change in tempo and intensity brought immediate rewards but killed players in the long-term.
It is for this reason why pre-season takes on extra significance this summer.