It feels like forever since we last had a “normal” Premier League season, and this one certainly won’t be that. The winter World Cup we’ve talked about for so long is finally almost here, and that means some disruption to club football.
Actually, it means a lot of disruption to Premier League football, and with games cancelled recently, too, there is going to be some catching up to do.
Hopefully, the World Cup will be fun for United fans too, with plenty of players involved and another chance to watch wall-to-wall football in the lead-up to Christmas. You can get on the betting apps and fantasy football apps and enjoy the games with a bit of a distraction from the Premier League.
When the football returns to domestic leagues, though, it will be full steam ahead.
In the UK, domestic football in the top tiers will stop on the weekend of 12/13 November. Players will head out at different times to their bases in the Middle East, and there is a quick turnaround for when games start on 20 November.
The Premier League will not resume at any point during the World Cup, due to the number of players who will be away – it was deemed unfair to start games when some players would still be absent. However, the championship resumes earlier, after the group stage is complete.
The World Cup final takes place on 18 December and this means that any players who are involved will only have eight days before they are back in action in the Premier League.
All of this was decided by representatives of the 20 Premier League clubs in London last summer. In total, we’ll have six fixture-free weekends.
We don’t know which players will be involved, and it seems strange to think that some of the big names in the squad could be left to put their feet up, rather than going to the World Cup.
The English contingent that have been snubbed in recent squads include Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, though Gareth Southgate went so far recently as to even discuss Rashford in a press conference:
“There were certain players we wanted to keep involved this time, but that said it doesn’t mean that this is the end for some of the others who aren’t involved.
“Marcus Rashford, for example, has shown some encouraging signs recently. He is a player we know well so if he can perform at a high level in the next few weeks, he of course will be under consideration.”
Other United players who may have time to train and watch from home include David de Gea, left out of recent Spain squads, and the likes of Donny van de Beek and Antony, who are by no means certain to go to the tournament.
The winter schedule means that there will actually be time to spare within the club, and transfer matters will be high on the agenda. Without games happening twice or three times a week, a lot of the behind-the-scenes club staff will be able to work on the transfer front.
Could United use the time to work on deals for the likes of Alessandro Bastoni? He’s another player who won’t actually be at the World Cup, and could negotiate a potential move to Manchester.
Deals can’t be completed until January, of course, but the club would be silly not to use this as a head start on negotiating deals if at all possible.
It could also give Erik ten Hag more time to continue working with the players who are still at the club, and continue to build his football philosophy at Carrington.
We’ll see rotation in the run-in
Most United fans expect the club to go far in the Europa League, and while it can’t be left by the wayside (it’s a chance to qualify for the Champions League, after all) the fixture congestion later in the season could get silly.
We only really have an extra week, with the season to finish on 28 May in England, and there could be a lot of fixtures to fit in, especially if we see any unexpected postponements when the weather gets bad. This is not likely at Old Trafford, but could happen at other grounds or even in European games.
This means it is likely that the club will rotate players a lot, and the Europa League may be a chance for fringe players to impress, much like we’ve already seen.
Cup competitions may also not be the number one priority, as with so much football, Ten Hag won’t want to run his squad into the ground, especially if they are to play with the intensity he wants.
What do you think of the World Cup schedule? How will it affect Manchester United’s chances at finishing in the top four or even going one better in 2022/23?