It looks like Manchester United will need to do things the hard way if they are to mount a serious Premier League title challenge next season.
The fixtures for the 2021/22 season were released on Wednesday morning and they once again hammered home the enormity of the task on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hands in the year ahead.
While it is fact United would have had to play every side home and away at some point, they have not been particularly helped by a gruelling set of fixtures early on into their campaign.
Not only do Solskjaer’s side start the new season with a massive derby encounter against Leeds United at Old Trafford on August 14, but two months later they face a set of fixtures which could well define their entire league campaign.
In their eighth match of the new season United are set to travel to face Leicester at the King Power Stadium on October 16 before hosting Liverpool at home a week later.
They then go back on the road to face Tottenham in North London as warm-up to the first Manchester derby of the season a week later when they meet Man City at Old Trafford.
The season then takes a brief pause for the international break before United are right back at it with consecutive away matches against Watford and Chelsea.
Just three days after their clash at Stamford Bridge the seven match run comes to an end with the unenviable task of facing Arsenal at Old Trafford.
If that wasn’t bad enough the run is made even trickier given the fact United are also expected to play three Champions League group stage matches sandwiched in between the league encounters, a task which could be made even harder if drawn into an unfavourable group.
Although the current focus is on the ongoing European Championship, the fixture release is once again a pressing reminder of the importance of squad depth and the need to strengthen in the summer window.
It’s still a long way off before United kick-start their campaign against Leeds in two months’ time, but four months today they will embark on a seven match run which could well define their entire season.
They need to be ready.
United’s season-defining run of matches
16th October – Leicester (A)
19/20th October – Champions League group stage match
23rd October – Liverpool (H)
30th October – Tottenham (A)
2nd/3rd November – Champions League group stage match
6th November – Man City (H)
20th November – Watford (A)
23rd/24th November – Champions League group stage match
27th November – Chelsea (A)
30th November – Arsenal (H)