Mark Froggatt welcomes a busy return to action for the Reds...
Never before have I anticipated the return of the Barclays Premier League with such optimism and enthusiasm, safe in the knowledge that the Euro 2012 qualifiers are finished until March.
'Paint' and ‘drying’ are two words that come to mind whenever international football is on TV - I think those words must be a reference to an activity I'd rather watch. And while there is another midweek of mundane friendlies to endure in November, United fans can rest assured our club's season is about to get extremely exciting.
Beginning with West Brom on Saturday, United have nine matches to play in 29 days, including a home cup tie against Wolves, a European double-header against Bursaspor and of course the Manchester derby. This busy schedule provides the Reds with an ideal opportunity to stamp some authority on the league table, build on the unbeaten, unbreached start to the Champions League campaign and make further progress towards winning a third consecutive Carling Cup.
Admittedly, five points behind Chelsea in the title race is not a comfortable position for any United fan. But I'm not panicking - history shows that Sir Alex Ferguson’s men can still burst into championship-winning form after a slow start, and a stack-up of fixtures is sometimes the trigger.
Besides, there is much to encourage us already. The Reds are currently unbeaten in 18 matches, a run stretching back to 7 April (Chelsea at Old Trafford). Plus, the recent reunion of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in defence is a massive boost to the squad, reforming an almost impenetrable partnership that has been the platform for United’s recent triumphs.
When the fixture congestion clears on 13 November - we'll then have a full seven days' breather before the following game - it would not surprise me to see United safely through to the next rounds of two cup competitions and sitting much closer to Chelsea.