The Debate: Which fixture do you want first?

Monday 13 June 2022 16:26

There is not long to go now until the 2022/23 Premier League fixtures are released, plotting a course for Erik ten Hag and his Manchester United players to navigate.

The long list will be published at exactly 09:00 BST on Thursday morning and it will mark the start of a new season for fans, filled with fresh hope and optimism.

We have been asking supporters to vote in a series of polls about fixtures day there is an overwhelming majority in one of those, with over 80 per cent of Reds saying they would prefer to start the season at home, rather than away. 

Ex-United winger Ben Thornley wouldn’t mind an Old Trafford start, but he also has a contrarian view and points to the boost that an away win would provide. 

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“As a player, it didn't really matter where the opening day was for me, I'll be quite honest,” says Ben in our new episode of The Debate. “The fans can't wait for that first day, and it's even better for them if it's at Old Trafford, but how good would it be for the second game to be at Old Trafford, having already gone somewhere on the opening day and come away with a victory? 

“That might give the fans a little glimpse before our first home game that this is a team that will be competitive, whoever we play against. It’s fine saying we have got Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Bournemouth coming up, but with these teams coming up, there is always one that tends to do very, very well on the opening day, so it is not going to be easy either way. For me, it doesn't really matter who you get, but if you can get an away victory, then I think that stands you in really good stead.”
Of course, many supporters look for different matches first depending on personal preferences and Treble-winner David May admits he’ll search for four dates after the opening day. “The first fixture I look for is Liverpool, then where you are on Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and the end of the season,” says the former Blackburn Rovers and United man. “Those are the four points really. 

“The opening day looks fantastic and everyone is excited about the game, wanting to get off to a good start. As a player, it's imperative you get off to a good start because you always seem to be chasing teams if you don't. You don't want to get too far behind because then it becomes a long, drawn-out season and you are forever chasing. But the first game is always a great occasion: a new start, fresh hopes and, with the new manager coming in, there is that added spice.”
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In case you missed it, this season will be heavily interrupted by the World Cup taking place in Qatar across November and December, meaning there will be a lengthy break in domestic top-flight football. The Premier League action will resume on Boxing Day and Thornley feels that will be a pivotal occasion. 

“That is one that people look for anyway because it's such a special fixture in the football calendar in this country, but there is even more riding on it now,” he points out. “There will be some teams, when the Premier League season stops in November, that will not be looking forward to the break because they're on such a good run, and then there will also be the opposite where there will be some teams thinking they need a break. So the Boxing Day fixture stands out for me.
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Where do you want our opening-day fixture?

“Under normal circumstances, the World Cup kicks off at the end of the season so when you kick off, it wouldn't really be in your mind, or it shouldn't be, but because it's happening right in the middle. I do tend to agree there will be some players [across the league] - for whom it is their last chance to play in a World Cup - who might be wary of getting injured. Although you never want to question anybody’s commitment, you can see from a player’s point of view that they will want the best chance possible of getting to Qatar. It is a weird time to have it, it really is.”

The 2022/23 Premier League fixtures will be released at 09:00 BST on Thursday.