With just a month remaining for the 2017-18 Premier League season to begin we analyse Manchester United’s fixture list for the campaign.
The 2017-18 season will be Jose Mourinho’s second since being appointed as the Manchester United manager just over a year ago. And the Portuguese manager will be really eager to stamp his authority at Old Trafford, as he usually has with every club he has managed.
2016-17 – A Season of Improvements and Frustrations
The Premier League, in particular, will be where Mourinho will be rallying behind his side to make rectifications after Manchester United could only manage a sixth-placed finish in the recently concluded season.
While the Red Devils did improve as the campaign wore on, they often lacked the killer instinct to put stubborn sides away, as they were held to a staggering 10 draws at Old Trafford in addition to five on the road. The season was also memorable for the unbeaten streak in the Premier League – a 25-match run that included 12 draws.
The run, however, did show that Mourinho had made his side hard to beat as Manchester United lost the second fewest matches in the league. Some individuals were also noteworthy, as Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera enjoyed a resurgent campaign, while Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned out to be inspired transfers.
What’s Happening in the Transfer Market?
Ibrahimovic’s journey as a Manchester United player, though, came to an end after just one season after he sustained a long-term knee injury. While he continues to recuperate at the club’s training facilities, he is unlikely to play again for them, having been released earlier this month.
Manchester United are now looking to fill the gaping hole left by Ibrahimovic’s departure, with Marcus Rashford as the only recognised striker at Mourinho’s disposal. Even as they search hard for a striker, Swedish centre-back Victor Lindelof became the club’s first signing of the summer.
While Manchester United are unlikely to be done with their transfer business for the summer, the two Swedes remain the only significant movers around the club so far, although several others have been strongly linked to the club.
Mourinho, though, would be hoping that Ed Woodward is able to acquire all his targets well in time for the Red Devils’ first match of the season for the players to gel better into his system, just as he did with the transfer dealings for three of the four players who were signed last summer.
2017-18 – A Typical Mourinho Second Season Beckons?
As iterated earlier, Jose Mourinho’s sides usually turn on the style during his second season in charge of the club. And with the list of fixtures for the 2017-18 season released, a first look suggests that Manchester United have the opportunity to do just that with their fixtures fairly evenly spread out over the course of the season.
In fact, Mourinho’s men have the luxury of easing into the season and build all the momentum that they can to mount a challenge for the Premier League title, as they face only two Top 10 finishers from 2016-17 – Everton and Southampton – in the first two months of the campaign.
Having said that, the first two months will also include the first half of the group stage campaign in the Champions League, and Mourinho will need to rotate his players smartly in order to negotiate potentially tricky fixtures against the aforementioned clubs, as well as at Stoke City.
Their first major test of the season, meanwhile, comes against arch rivals, Liverpool at Anfield on October 14. By then they would be hoping to have established themselves at the top of the table and have the rest of the pack chasing after them rather than playing catch up for the remainder of the campaign.
The Run-in – Will Manchester United Clinch The Title In The End?
Manchester United end their Premier League campaign on a relatively easy note as well, as they only have to face two of their fellow potential title rivals in Manchester City and Arsenal at either end of April.
Other than these two major encounters, they will be up against teams likely to be mid-table or lower, ending their season at Old Trafford against Watford, when they could perhaps have the chance to lift the Premier League title for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
The aforementioned matches against Manchester City and Arsenal, though, could potentially shape the face of the title picture at a time when every point counts for a lot, meaning the pressure would be on Mourinho’s men to come out on the right side of the result.
December and the Fixture Congestion
As the fixtures start piling up, Mourinho could have the need to dig deep into his resources to keep his players fresh and firing at all times. And December will be the first such month in which the fixtures will come thick and fast.
Not only do they have to play seven Premier League games in the span of 28 days, United will also have their final Champions League group stage encounter to look forward to. And the club have a daunting start to a busy December as they will be facing Arsenal and Manchester City either side of the key Champions League fixture.
The remaining encounters in the month are fairly straightforward, although they could become tricky if Manchester United fail to carry any sort of momentum from the aforementioned games against their potential title rivals.
The Make-Or-Break Period
December will, yet again, be the month that makes or breaks Manchester United’s Premier League title aspirations. The Red Devils have matches against Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Watford as the three matches preceding the back-to-back encounters against City and Arsenal.
And nine points from the aforementioned games will be ever the crucial in order to build the momentum ahead of a busy December. Two wins in two against City and Arsenal will also help them continue their momentum instead of going on a dangerous slide that could derail their campaign.
Should they be able to come through the early period of December largely unscathed, then a 21st Premier League title triumph just might be a reality. Otherwise, Manchester United could end up playing catch up yet again instead of showing the way in the English top flight.
For now, though, transfer business is highly important for the Red Devils to ensure Mourinho is able to build a squad that he can rightfully call his own before he shepherds United’s Premier League title charge.