10 things we spotted in United's fixture list
Manchester United's 2021/22 Premier League fixtures deserve closer scrutiny so we have highlighted some particular games to look forward to...
SOUTH COAST TRIP IN AUGUST
After the opener with Leeds United, a first away game at Southampton will bring back some memories. We opened the 1987/88 campaign with a 2-2 draw at The Dell, the Saints' old ground, with Norman Whiteside scoring both goals. Fans may also recall our first-ever win in the Premier League came early in the successful 1992/93 term when Dion Dublin grabbed a late winner on the south coast.
The clash with Ralph Hassenhuttl's men, who we beat 3-2 and 9-0 in 2020/21, presents a chance to match Arsenal's longest unbeaten run in top-flight history. The Gunners picked up wins or draws in 27 consecutive games between April 2003 and September 2004, while United's final-day triumph at Wolves not only ensured we were unbeaten on the road throughout the league season but it stretched our own run to 26 matches.
It's a huge season for newly promoted Brentford, who are back in the top flight for the first time in 74 years! We've not played the Bees since 1975, when we beat them 2-1 in a League Cup tie at Old Trafford, but our scheduled game with them on 14 December will be our first trip to their home since 1947. That match was at their former ground, Griffin Park, which they have since left for the Brentford Community Stadium, less than a mile away. So it's another new venue to add to the United list...
There are few easy games in the Premier League these days, but when we first scanned the upcoming season's fixtures, March stuck out immediately as particularly challenging. We travel away to Manchester City and Liverpool and, between those two daunting games, we host Tottenham at Old Trafford. Exciting!
Remarkably, we'll face Newcastle on Boxing Day for the fourth time in 10 years – and the sixth time in the club's history. Thankfully, we have a good record against the Geordies, winning four out of the five Boxing Day meetings thus far, with a 1-0 reverse in 1987 the only blemish.
MEMORIES OF 1993
We finish our league season at Selhurst Park, which inspires pleasant memories of the last few weeks of the 1992/93 season, when we claimed our first title in 26 years. We beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at the venue prior to Aston Villa's decisive defeat to Oldham Athletic, and then returned to the ground to face their neighbours Wimbledon on the last day, as champions. Could that be a good omen? Ole has improved on his league position every season since taking up the managerial reins in 2019. Sixth in 2018/19, third in 2019/20, and second last term...
The Christmas and New Year schedule is always one keenly anticipated by fans and football professionals alike. It's a period of the season where titles can be won and lost, as the fixtures remorselessly pile up with very little respite in between. At first glance, United's 2021/22 festive itinerary isn't too bad: every side we are due to play in December (Crystal Palace, Norwich, Brentford, Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley) finished in the bottom half last season or are one of the newly promoted clubs. That's not to say those are easy matches – but last term we faced Manchester City, arch-rivals Leeds and Leicester City during the final month of the calendar year.
HOW WILL THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AFFECT THE SCHEDULE?
The Premier League fixture list gives us some idea of how the upcoming campaign will look; it gives the staff something to plan around. But there is still plenty we don't know, of course. We're in the Champions League for the second successive season – the first time we've achieved that since Sir Alex Ferguson retired – and, inevitably, our group-stage draw will have an impact on the Premier League itinerary. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was furious last season when a trip to Turkey to face Istanbul Basaksehir was followed by an Saturday lunchtime kick-off at Everton, and the Norwegian will no doubt be keenly awaiting August's draw to see how it affects the fixture line-up we've received today - although there has already been a promise the Goodison early start scenario will not arise again.