Former Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan has pinned the blame on Louis van Gaal for the club’s injury crisis this season.
The 52-year-old, who was a key member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s coaching staff for five years, believes the veteran Dutch manager took a serious risk by finding a new role for fitness coach Tony Strudwick - a risk that has since backfired.
Manchester United have suffered an unprecedented 43 injuries in five months, but Phelan believes this could have been prevented had Van Gaal not replaced Strudwick - whose new role was clarified by the Red Devils in September following speculation that he had been sacked - with fitness guru Jos van Dijk.
Phelan, who joined the coaching staff at Norwich City last month, told the International Business Times: “They've brought in new people with a different way of doing things.
"Tony understood the ins and outs of how to keep players fit."
He continued: “Tony, who was operating as head of sports science, was involved day to day with the first team.
"He understood how to keep players ready for competition. Then suddenly they moved him sideways and did something completely different. That may have had an effect. That one area has changed."
Training intensity questioned by Phelan
Phelan also suggests the change in the intensity of training may have taken its toll on Manchester United’s players over recent months. Almost every member of the Red Devils’ first team has spent time on the treatment table for various problems this season, and Phelan has urged Van Gaal to reconsider his methods.
"The intensity of training may be one thing - it may be too intense, or not intense enough - but obviously slight changes have been made with the present way of doing things,” he added.
"What's happened is a continuation of the same players getting injured all the time, so you have to look to the reasons why. I think Manchester United changed their thoughts on the fitness regime, they looked at it a bit differently."
United coping with injury crisis
The likes of Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, Angel di Maria and Daley Blind - key members of the first team - are currently sidelined with various problems ahead of Sunday’s crunch match against Liverpool.
While Radamel Falcao and Michael Carrick have only just returned to action after being sidelined with a calf problem and an ankle ligament injury, respectively.
Despite United’s ongoing injury crisis, the Red Devils have won their last five Premier League matches and currently sit third in the table, eight points behind league-leaders Chelsea and five behind reigning champions Manchester City.
Van Gaal’s side are currently on course to achieve their season-objective of securing a top-four finish and returning to the Champions League after a one-season absence, while some believe the 20-time English champions have an outside chance of winning the league this term.