Manchester United plan further behind-closed-doors friendlies to improve squad’s match fitness

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants his squad firing on all cylinders (Picture: Getty)

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen to get the likes of Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong ready for first team duties with the help of further behind-closed-doors friendlies in the next month.

The Red Devils have taken on Blackburn and Sheffield United in the last three weeks in an effort to keep those on the fringes of the squad fresh.

Solskjaer has sanctioned the departures of Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Romelu Lukaku, Chris Smalling, Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini since his appointment at the club, leaving his squad thin in certain areas.

The Norwegian’s used 15 players so far in United’s opening three league games and the club play once a week until the third week of September, when their Europa League and Carabao Cup campaigns begin.

The Reds were drawn with Astana, Partizan Belgrade and AZ Alkmaar in today’s Europa League draw and Solskjaer is expected to use the group stages to hand more playing time to the fringe members of his squad.

Fred is yet to feature for United this term (Picture: Getty)

The likes of Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Nemanja Matic, Axel Tuanzebe, Fred, Gomes and Chong are yet to play a single minute of the campaign so far and understands United have scheduled at least two further friendlies to help them maintain their match fitness.

An experienced starting XI beat Sheffield United 3-1 in a behind-closed-doors affair last week with Greenwood, Gomes and Pereira getting on the scoresheet.

Manchester United’s starting XI against Sheffield United

Romero, Dalot, Smalling, Jones, Darmian, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Pereira, Gomes, Alexis Sanchez, Greenwood

Two starting members from the team that day have since departed with Sanchez and Smalling completing moves to Inter Milan and Roma respectively.

Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that Darmian is set to leave the club with Parma close to ending his four-year stay at Old Trafford.

Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw have both been ruled out of United’s trip to Southampton on Saturday and it could mean a first start of the season for Mason Greenwood.

Solskjaer has shown huge faith in the youngster by offloading Lukaku and Sanchez but he says the youngster can deal with the expectation.

‘Mason is not used to playing as little as he is at the moment,’ said Solskjaer at his pre-match press conference on Friday morning when asked if it’s a big ask for Greenwood to step up.

‘He is used to playing every week for the reserves or the Under-18s, now he’s coming on for half-an-hour here and there.

‘He’s not expected to play five games in a row of course, he’s cover and an option behind Anthony and Marcus.’

MORE: Frank Lampard gives Mason Mount injury update ahead of Sheffield United clash



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