Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has explained why he started some of his key players from the bench as they suffered a deflating 3-1 defeat in the FA Cup semifinal to Chelsea on Sunday.
The Red were dumped out of the FA Cup by Chelsea, falling 3-1 in their semi-final showdown on Sunday.
United had been marginal favourites heading into the clash at Wembley, with Solskjaer’s men having already defeated the Blues three times this term.
But the Norwegian elected to switch formation at Wembley, bringing in Eric Bailly and going to three centre-halves in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Bruno Fernandes playing behind Daniel James and Marcus Rashford.
With Fred also recalled in midfield alongside Nemanja Matic, that meant both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba were left out of the starting XI – the former in the middle of an outstanding run of form, and having scored in Thursday night’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Young forward Mason Greenwood was also left on the substitutes bench and United never really got going as Chelsea took control.
Olivier Giroud, Mason Mount and a Harry Maguire own goal ultimately gave them victory, before Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty reduced the arrears.
In defence of his team selection, Solskjaer pointed towards two more crucial Premier League matches in the race for a top four finish and a return to the Champions League.
“We picked a team today to give us the best possible opportunity to go through in the cup and be ready for Wednesday.
“It didn’t work today. Of course we came almost to half-time – we had to change when Eric [Bailly] came off, but that will stand us in good stead for Wednesday.
“I picked a team today to go through.
“There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves, we have two games this week and then the Europa League.
“We will get our heads ready and our legs ready and go again.”
Solskjaer also picked David de Gea over Sergio Romero (Image: Marc Aspland NMCPool)
Asked specifically about French pair Pogba and Martial being benched, Solskjaer responded: “They [Pogba and Martial] have played a lot of football so it’s just about freshening up the team.
“But also about giving them the chance to make a difference when they come on.”