Manchester United’s 2018/19 Premier League fixtures brought up numerous talking points for us to pick out.
The outline of the campaign has become much clearer, even though all the dates are subject to change due to live television coverage and other possible enforced changes during the season.
Here, we look at what we have learned following the release of the Reds’ provisional fixtures on Thursday at 09:00 BST…
WHAT’S OUR START LIKE?
It’s fair to say the fixture computer has been relatively kind to the Reds, who will begin the new campaign at home to Leicester City over the weekend of 11 and 12 August. It will mean another return to Old Trafford for former United defender Jonny Evans, who joined the 2015/16 champions earlier this month from West Bromwich Albion. United also faced the Foxes at home in the first month of last season, when goals from Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini secured a 2-0 win for the Reds on 26 August 2017. If you’re also looking for a good omen, the Reds also started our Treble-winning season in 1998/99 with a home game against Leicester – when David Beckham scored a 90th-minute equaliser as United came from 2-0 down late on to secure a 2-2 draw.
Jose Mourinho’s men will then travel to Brighton & Hove Albion, which was our final away league game of 2016/17, before the first significant test comes in the form of the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to the Theatre of Dreams on 25 August. The Reds then make the short trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley, who capped a magnificent campaign last term by finishing seventh, before the first international break over the weekend of 8 and 9 September.
WHEN ARE THE TOP-SIX CLASHES?
United fans seeing the fixtures for the first time will no doubt have been scanning it for key clashes with the club's main rivals. Following the home tie with Spurs in August, the Reds must wait until 20 October to come up against another top-six side and will be looking to avenge last season’s Emirates FA Cup final defeat against Chelsea when travelling to Stamford Bridge to face Mourinho’s former club. The return fixture against the Blues is set to be United’s penultimate home league game, on 27 April.
Once again, the Manchester derbies are likely to be important in the title race. The first clash with our local adversaries will be at the Etihad Stadium, the scene of the Reds’ remarkable comeback victory back in April, on 10 November. Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions will then make the short trip across town to Old Trafford on 16 March, for what should be a thrilling contest.
The Reds won’t face arch-rivals Liverpool until mid-December at Anfield, where we have drawn 0-0 in each of the last two seasons, before taking on Jurgen Klopp’s men at Old Trafford on 23 February. After welcoming Spurs in our second home league game, United will travel to Tottenham’s new ground at White Hart Lane for the first time in our second away league match of 2019, on 12 January. Following Arsene Wenger’s departure at the end of last term, the Reds will come up against his successor Unai Emery for the first time when the Gunners visit the Theatre of Dreams on 4 December, for what is always an eagerly-awaited encounter. United, who completed a league double over the north London side last term, will then travel to the Emirates Stadium on 9 March.
WHAT’S THE FESTIVE PERIOD LIKE?
The Reds appear to have a favourable run of fixtures over Christmas and New Year, which is always a crucial phase of the campaign. Following the trip to Merseyside to face arch-rivals Liverpool on 15 December, United will make the lengthy journey to South Wales to face newly-promoted Cardiff City on 22 December. Over the years, the Reds have traditionally been at home on Boxing Day more often than not - and that will be the case again next season as Yorkshire outfit Huddersfield Town, embarking on their second successive season in the top flight, will be the visitors to Old Trafford. United will have another home game just three days later against Bournemouth, before making the trip to Tyneside to face Newcastle United on New Year’s Day, with revenge undoubtedly in mind after last season’s surprise 1-0 loss at St James’ Park.
WHAT’S OUR END TO THE SEASON LIKE?
The business end of the campaign is always significant and the time when points start to mean prizes. Once again, the Reds appear to have been dealt a winnable set of fixtures to conclude the 27th Premier League season. United kick off April with a trip to newly-promoted Wolves before hosting West Ham United, who were beaten 4-0 on their last visit to Old Trafford on the opening weekend last season, on 13 April. After a testing trip to Goodison Park to face Everton the following weekend, United host Chelsea in a potentially crucial clash but end the term with a trip to Huddersfield on 4 May before welcoming Cardiff City on the final day of the season on 12 May – the third successive campaign in which the Reds will finish on home soil. Facing the Bluebirds at Old Trafford may bring back happy memories for Juan Mata, who made his United debut in the same fixture back in January 2014 following his arrival from Chelsea.
WHO DO OUR RIVALS START AGAINST?
New Arsenal boss Unai Emery faces a tough start to life in English football, with a home game against champions Manchester City on the opening weekend, followed by a tricky trip to Chelsea and another London derby, at home to West Ham United, to finish August.
Like United did in 2016/17, arch-rivals Liverpool will start the new campaign at home to the Hammers, before an away game at Crystal Palace and home clash with Brighton, who were beaten 4-0 at Anfield on the final day of last season.
Elsewhere, after starting the season with the Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium and an opening-weekend trip to the Emirates Stadium, City welcome Huddersfield to the Etihad Stadium, before ending the first month of the campaign with a trip to Molineux to take on newly-promoted Wolves.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will travel to the John Smith’s Stadium to take on the Terriers on the opening weekend and, after hosting the Gunners on the second weekend, visit Newcastle on 25 August. Our third opponents Tottenham also face an early-season trip to Tyneside – on the opening weekend, like they did last term when Mauricio Pochettino’s side won 2-0, before hosting newly-promoted Fulham in a London derby on 18 August. That match will be played at Wembley - their temporary home of last season - while their new stadium is completed.
WHO DO WE PLAY AFTER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCHES?
The Reds face a mixed set of fixtures immediately after midweek Champions League matches in the group stage of the competition during the autumn – including arguably two of our toughest games of the league season, away to adversaries Manchester City and Liverpool. United will travel to Wolves on 22 September after the opening group match in Europe’s elite competition on 18/19 September, and face Newcastle at home on 6 October following matchday two on 2/3 October. The Reds host Everton on 27 October after the third group game, but then face testing away clashes following our European excursions - albeit with short journeys to our fiercest North West rivals. The first Manchester derby of the season will follow our fourth Champions League group match on 6/7 November and, after a trip to Southampton on 1 December follows our penultimate group game, our visit to Anfield on 15 December will come after the final group match on 11/12 December – which could be the Reds’ most challenging period of the campaign.
WHEN DO WE PLAY THE PROMOTED TEAMS?
Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham will replace relegated Swansea City, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in next season’s top flight. The Reds face an early-season clash against last season’s Championship winners as Wolves visit Old Trafford on 22 September, with the return fixture against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side set for 6 April. United have fond memories of our last trip to Molineux, which resulted in a 5-0 win back in March 2012. The Reds must wait until 8 December to be reunited with Fulham, who were promoted via the play-offs last term after a four-year exile from the Premier League. The Cottagers, managed by former Watford boss Slavisa Jokanovic, will make the trip to the Theatre of Dreams first before United travel to west London on 9 February for the return clash at Craven Cottage. As mentioned previously, the Reds will travel to Cardiff three days before Christmas, hoping for a first Premier League win at the Cardiff City Stadium after a 2-2 draw on our only other visit in November 2013. United won’t encounter Neil Warnock’s side, who finished second in the Championship last term, again until the final league fixture of the campaign.
Download the Man Utd Fixtures Calendar now to get free fixture updates straight to your diary. To view all 38 of United's provisional 2018/19 Premier League fixtures, visit www.ManUtd.com/fixturesday.