There's been some talk around Manchester United as of late about fatigue starting to set into the squad -- both mentally and physically. In attempt to address this issue, the club has decided to fly back to England all of their international players on private jets after the upcoming international break. This should be particularly beneficial to players such as Javier Hernandez (Chicharito), Antonio Valencia, and Shinji Kagawa as they'll be involved in matches away from the European continent. Here is what manager Sir Alex Ferguson had to say on the matter in his United Review programme notes for the Reading match that just occurred:
"Freshness is the name of the game now as we come towards the end of the season and the intensity of vital games coming in quick succession.
In fact we’re making arrangements for some players to fly home by privately hired jet after their matches to make sure they get home as quickly and smoothly as possible. [Assistant Coach] Mike Phelan is working on this because we have a full team away on international duty over the next fortnight and they will be coming back to play at Sunderland, who will have perhaps just three or four people away, with the remainder making the most of a break.
Tiredness is a great leveller. But we’ll do our utmost to make sure we field the freshest possible teams. Private planes are going to cost the club an awful lot of money, but it is something we feel we have to do. It’s a real problem when the players come back at the end of the international break after playing two games involving long flights, particularly Chicharito in Mexico and Shinji Kagawa in Japan.
The players who will miss the international trips, like [Ryan] Giggs, Anderson, [Nemanja] Vidic, [Alexander] Büttner and Rafa will be key players in the run-in. I am also delighted to say that Paul Scholes is back in training, and he will play a part in keeping us fresh.
My role becomes even more important in selecting the right teams, with freshness the operative quality. It’s not necessarily putting out your best team, it’s picking the freshest."
- Ferguson | Source: United Review
It should be noted that Kagawa's matches with Japan will actually be occurring in Qatar and Jordan. Therefore, the timezone difference will be minimal. Chicharito and Valencia, though, will be playing in World Cup qualifiers in the Americas.
The issue of freshness certainly seemed to impact Ferguson's selection choices against Reading as the clear first-choice Rafael, Patrice Evra, and Michael Carrick were rested as were other fringe starters such as Tom Cleverley and Kagawa. United's first match back from the international break will occur on Saturday, March 30 at Sunderland. Just two days later, the Reds have a challenging FA Cup quarter-final replay at Chelsea.
With a now 15 point lead in the title-race with just 9 remaining Premier League fixtures, it's very possible that Ferguson will want his strongest team possible for the tie at Stamford Bridge. Therefore, he could look to rest some of his key internationals for the fixture at the Stadium of Light just two days prior. It wouldn't be shocking if the manager names two completely different sides for those matches.