Following Manchester United’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, Louis van Gaal bemoaned the fact his side had to play twice in 48 hours.
“It is scientifically proven that the body cannot recover within 48 hours,” the United boss told the BBC, and so it proved as his side struggled in the second half, faltering after a fine first half that could have seen them put the match out of sight.
With United playing an unchanged side following their 3-1 win against Newcastle United, substitutes were always going to be important, but it was somewhat surprising that the one player who could have added a goal-scoring threat in the second period remained on the bench.
James Wilson has made 10 appearances this season, but just when United’s front-three of Wayne Rooney, Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie were struggling to break down a Tottenham side who had fought off a first-half attack to look relatively comfortable after the interval, the teenager remained on the bench.
Instead van Gaal brought on three defenders in the form of Rafael, Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw, putting added pressure on his starting strikers to fight off fatigue and snatch a late winner.
Considering United’s manager identified how hard it is to play twice in quick succession, surely replacing one of his front-men late on would have been the smart thing to do.
Wilson has a natural goal-scoring ability and having featured so sparingly to date his fitness could have proved invaluable amid players running low on energy.
Alas it was not to be, with Wilson unable to help his side cut the gap on Chelsea and Manchester City. But when you consider the importance of late striking substitutes in the past – the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Javier Hernandez to name but two – this could have been the perfect time for Wilson to make his mark.