Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the recent fan protests at Old Trafford have hurt his side's form.
United have lost back-to-back Premier League games to Leicester City and Liverpool. It's the first time since November 2020 that the club have lost successive games, and the dip in form comes after two major demonstrations outside Old Trafford.
On May 2 their original Liverpool fixture was postponed after roughly 200 people invaded the stadium while thousands more protested outside. A smaller number made their feelings against the club's owners known before the rearranged Liverpool game last week.
Fears of another postponement meant United players arrived to Old Trafford seven-hours before the game with Jurgen Klopp's side kicked off.
Solskjaer was asked if his players had been affected by the impact of the protests.
"Yeah, surely," he replied, "I just didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
"We lost the two games, but surely it’s reason behind the performances and the results we’ve had.
"Physically, it’s impossible for them to turn up and play at the intensity and the level that’s required because of the amount of games.
"Then you look at the preparation in-between. You haven’t had the recovery in-between, you haven’t had the same routine as you normally do. We haven’t done the tactical prep in the same way as we’ve had.
"Of course, I’m not saying that it didn’t affect them, but was impressed with how professional they were in the way they went about it. There was none of them who complained. That’s one of the big things, for me, that we never complain.
"We never look outwards, we just look at what we can do. How can we maximise the situation? We tried to do that but we couldn’t get the results.
"The players have been good as gold, now they’ve had a couple of days off to refresh and be ready and we prepare as normal for these last two games."
Fans allowed in (legally this time)
Fans will be legally allowed inside Old Trafford for the first time in over a year on Tuesday night.
The Premier League game with Fulham will take place in front of approximately 10,000 fans, in line with the easing of coronavirus restrictions in England.
Solskjaer hopes the recent negativity outside the ground won't make its way inside.
"Well, we’ve been waiting for a long, long time to welcome the fans back and of course the last couple of home games – especially the Liverpool ones, with the protests… it’s never nice to see a club that is not united, the fans and the team," said the Norwegian.
"So of course, we’re hoping that Tuesday is going to be a positive day, that we move together, that we play a good game of football, because that’s my job – to prepare the team, to play well and that they enjoy the day. That’s important now, that we get back and enjoy being together."
He added, "I think the mood in any club and the relationship between a team and the fans is vital to what happens on the pitch.
"We’re all human beings, we’ll react to getting our supporters back in a positive way. They’ve always been back there, giving us extra energy and hopefully the players will give the fans a reason to cheer. That’s what we have to focus on.
"It’s a big game for us in that respect. Since the last time we had fans in, against Manchester City. Great game, the atmosphere was the best I’ve ever felt it at Old Trafford in a league game. The next time we can welcome the fans back in, [I hope] that it’s a positive one."