With the fixtures for the 2017-18 Premier League released last week, we take an in-depth look at each month of the upcoming football season.
We start with August and September
August 2nd – Sampdoria (N)
August 8th – Real Madrid (N)
August 12th – West Ham United (H)
August 19th – Swansea (A)
August 26th – Leicester (H)
United begin August with a friendly in Northern Ireland against Sampdoria. Less than a week later, United travel to Macedonia to face Champions League holders Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. The match will be played on 8th of August just four days prior to United’s Premier League curtain-raiser against West Ham.
We did see what clocking up the miles on and off the pitch does to players towards the end of the season in 2016-17. Players like Luke Shaw, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered ligament and muscle injuries.
While such a drastic effect on the players is not expected at the early stages of the campaign, we could see aftereffects come April or May 2018.
In the Premier League, United welcome West Ham United on opening day. United should win comfortably and lay down a marker for title rivals. I don’t see the travel to Macedonia affecting preparations to this game. West Ham will surely be fresher but I don’t see them winning, especially at Old Trafford.
United follow that game with a trip to Wales. On paper, Swansea look like another easy win. Over the years, Swansea has become United’s bogey team but I expect things to be put right. Another easy on the cards. Factor this in with the fact that one of Chelsea or Tottenham will drop points in their matchup, United could emerge big winners from matchweek 2.
United then welcome the Foxes. This will be a massive game for the squad as it comes right before the first international break of the season. Another win could see United go into said break on top of the pile. Leicester however, will be no pushovers. They will be looking to get a good start and a win against the likes of United would be huge. A difficult match to predict given United’s troubles at home the previous campaign and Leicester’s unpredictability and the resurgence towards the end of the season. Meanwhile, Liverpool goes toe-to-toe with Arsenal.
9th September – Stoke City (A)
12th/13th September – Champions League
16th September – Everton (H)
23rd September – Southampton (A)
30th September – Crystal Palace (H)
Carabao Cup Third Round (Matchday Unknown)
In 2016-17, United had the ‘small issue’ of a Manchester Derby right after the international break. Players like Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and others came in for training late and United were outclassed in the first half. Things improved in the second but the damage was done and United dropped their first points of the campaign.
However, this campaign United travel to the Bet365 Stadium. With all due respect to Stoke, United will take this fixture rather than a crunch clash against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal. Points could yet be dropped as playing in typical windy Stoke conditions is never easy. United also have the midweek Champions League fixture to look at. City take on Liverpool and United could again create breathing space for themselves this matchday.
United will return to the Champions League either on the 12th or 13th of September. While the draw has not taken place yet, Mourinho might take off the likes of Paul Pogba or Ander Herrera should United make quick work of Stoke at the weekend. United could be forced to take a long flight but Mourinho will be pleased his side are not playing on Thursday night.
Following the much-anticipated return to Europe’s elite, United face the toughest assignment of the campaign yet – Everton. This could be a crunch clash with the potential for dropped points. Arsenal takes on Chelsea in what could be another chance for United to create or extend a potential lead at the top.
United travel to Southampton next. Another win on paper but it could be a different story on the pitch. Southampton can look like relegation candidates one day and play like the best of the lot the next. I don’t see United losing but it could be an exciting match.
Manchester United complete the month with the visit of Crystal Palace. Another easy home win is expected prior to the second international break.
The Third Round of the Carabao Cup (formerly known as the EFL Cup) will also take place in September, sandwiched between the Everton and Southampton fixtures (an educated guess). Mourinho will rest a few of the big guns but he will not roll over to the side and lose.
United could head into the international break on top of the pile given the relatively easy start to the campaign. A number of top six sides face each other giving United the chance to open up leads. At this point in the league, Mourinho could be heralded as a genius or, should results fall below expectations, fans may get itchy. Expect a strong start out of the blocks from United.