The upcoming fixture list hasn’t necessarily been kind to Manchester United, it’s fair to say. Once the impending international break is over, United’s first game back will be a trip to Anfield and bitter rivals Liverpool on Monday 17th. Awkwardly, Fenerbahce then visit Old Trafford in the Europa League three days later on Thursday 20th, in a game that United could really do with winning if they hope to escape Group A. In an added quirk of the fixture list, United then travel to Chelsea three days later before entertaining Manchester City in the EFL Cup three days after that on Wednesday 26th.
It makes for an incredibly intense line-up of four games in nine days, all meetings that United could do with winning given they have lost two games in the Premier League and a Europa League match with Feyenoord already this season. As reported by The Guardian, Jose Mourinho was keenly aware of this when speaking after United’s 1-0 over Zorya Luhansk last night:
“Well, we could play Liverpool on the Saturday, we could play Liverpool on the Sunday,” the United manager said. “We play Liverpool on the Monday.
“So maybe we don’t have the best conditions, especially because we play against two top Premier League games that don’t play in European competitions. We had this kind of poisoned gift of playing on the Monday. That creates a very difficult situation, but we want to try and qualify for the next round. We want to try.”
It might make for an exciting period for fans, given the calibre of the opponents on offer, but Mourinho is right to approach this period with trepidation. Games at Anfield are never easy affairs, and the Portuguese will be keenly aware of the need to impress in such a historically important fixture for the club. He also won’t want to be dumped out of the Europa League prematurely, or see his United side fail against his old club at Stamford Bridge, or wish to see Pep Guardiola’s City side waltz into Old Trafford and grab a second victory this season.
The Premier League do have a history of organising fixtures will little concern for their sides competing in Europe, however. Whereas La Liga bosses will typically allow the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid Saturday fixtures if they are competing in Europe the following week, United have long become used to having less preparation time for their European fixtures as the demands of television rights have to be met. Still, it doesn’t make a tricky period for United any easier, and it will be very interesting to see how Mourinho and his team handles it.