Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is closing ranks as we approach the squeaky bum time of the season, raging about the club’s ‘many enemies’ as he aired his frustration at the daunting fixture list that confronts them between now and the end of the season.
And while there really is no ‘enemy’ to blame for the pile-up, Mourinho does have a point that the packed schedule will test his squad to the limit.
If United were to reach the final of the Europa League on May 24, they must cram in 17 matches in just 66 days from this Sunday’s visit to Middlesbrough in the Premier League onwards. And when you remove the two-week international break that begins on Monday and count it from their home game with West Brom on April 1, United would fit in 16 games in just 53 days. It would mean that United will play, on average, every 3.31 days between the start of April and the end of the season.
After their visit to Middlesbrough, ‘we will probably lose,’ predicted a gloomy Mourinho on Thursday night, they play West Brom and Everton at home before a visit to Sunderland on April 9.
Manchester United’s Nightmare Schedule
- March 19 Middlesbrough (A)
- April 1 West Bromwich Albion (H)
- April 4 Everton (H)
- April 9 Sunderland (A)
- April 13 Anderlecht (A) Europa League Quarter-final, first leg
- April 16 Chelsea (H)
- April 20 Anderlecht (H) Europa League Quarter-final, second leg
- April 23 Burnley (A)
- April 30 Swansea City (H)
- May 4 Europa League semi-final, first leg (possible)
- May 6 Arsenal (A)
- May 11 Europa League semi-final, second leg (possible)
- May 13 Tottenham Hotspur (A)
- May 21 Crystal Palace (H)
- May 24 Europa League final (possible)
- TBC Southampton (A)
- TBC Manchester City (A)
They will then play the two legs of their Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht either side of a home match with champions-elect Chelsea.
An April that will contain at least eight games, is rounded off by a trip to Burnley and a home fixture with Swansea.
They might then play the two legs of their Europa League semi-final either side of an away game at Arsenal, before playing Tottenham and Crystal Palace in the league ahead of the possible final at the Friends Arena.
There are two Premier League games, away to Southampton and Manchester City, that have still to be arranged. As it stands, it appears one will be played on April 25 and the other on May 16, their penultimate league game.
Winning the Europa League would have rewards for United and Mourinho, not only is it another trophy, but it is also a ticket into next season’s Champions League. At the moment, it is potentially more likely United will return to Europe’s elite competition via that route than by finishing in the top four.
But the schedule of matches will unquestionably push United’s squad to breaking point. Any success this season will certainly be hard-earned.