Injuries can, of course, be unfortunate – a bad behavior, a wrong behavior – but they can also be cumulative, with the impact of a player being pushed too far away to what Arsene Wenger called the “red zone”. But this is not the only result of fatigue. Even if injury is avoided, performance can dip.
It is more than anything that Solskjaer and Manchester United should stop. United’s captain, Harry Maguire, has played 3,946 minutes this season, more than every other outfield player in England. He has played the equivalent of five full games this season compared to his closest rival, Yuri Tielemans of Leicester.
But Maguire is not alone. United have seven players who have played more than 2,700 minutes this season. Leicester and Everton have only one, Chelsea two and Spurs and West Ham three. Even Liverpool, with all those injuries reduced to its options, has only five. If fatigue proves to be a factor, the joint side core is more likely to suffer in the final stretch than anyone else.
To some extent, of course, this has been offset by his resources: Solskjaer has options to either sideline any of his key players or face a dangerous decline in form. To play the role of Donnie van de Beek because Bruno Fernandes needs rest, there should be no great sacrifice.
In fact, it may well be the formula, more than any other, that comes to define the next two months, which serves to find the signal in the noise of this season. Compared to any other season, the final prize on offer in the Premier League will go to teams that can mitigate the effects of fatigue, due to less workload or by having the strength in depth to get it out. In all the chaos, eventually, there will be some kind of order.