Get set for the busiest spell of the season...
The final international break of 2021 concludes in the early hours of Wednesday morning, ushering in what will be the busiest spell of the season for Manchester United.
Between now and 30 December, United face 11 games – nine in the Premier League, two in the Champions League – which will go a long way to setting the tone for the new year.
Last season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took advantage of the festive period domestically, winning seven of nine top-flight games to move from 14th to second in the table, a place we would remain for much of the rest of the campaign.
Let’s hope for more of the same this time around, as the tail-end of the year pans out like this…
United return to action on Saturday, with a 15:00 GMT kick-off against Claudio Ranieri’s Watford at Vicarage Road. The game will not be shown live on TV in the UK, but hopefully we can get back to winning ways in the Premier League after the disappointing home defeat to Manchester City earlier this month.
Another key away trip to a team in yellow follows three days later, as we face Villarreal in the Champions League in Spain. A win for United would see us qualify for the last 16 with a game to spare, while a draw would keep the Reds top of Group F ahead of the clash with Young Boys on matchday six.
The Reds end November with a visit to Premier League leaders, at the time of writing, Chelsea. While Stamford Bridge has traditionally been a bogey ground for United, we’re unbeaten in each of our four games there under Solskjaer.
December begins with an unusual Thursday 20:15 GMT kick-off under the lights at Old Trafford, against Arsenal. That game is live on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, meaning the following league game – when Crystal Palace visit M16 – has been moved to Sunday 5 December but won’t be broadcast in this country.
After three straight away games, supporters can enjoy a trio of fixtures at the Theatre of Dreams in under a week, with Young Boys rounding out our Champions League group campaign. Whether we can get it done on the night, or two weeks before in Spain, after this match, let's hope we can all look forward to the round-of-16 draw on Monday 13 December.
It’ll be a busy month for draws, as we also find out our Emirates FA Cup third-round opponents. The details for this have not yet been confirmed, but the balls will likely be pulled out on the evening of Monday 6 December, after the bulk of the second-round fixtures have been played.
Back to the on-pitch action and we have successive matches with promoted sides in mid-December. Norwich City, who have just appointed former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith as manager, host us on Saturday 11 December, while Reds supporters can look forward to a first-ever trip to the Brentford Community Stadium when we play Thomas Frank’s impressive Bees three days later.
Our final fixture before Christmas is against Brighton & Hove Albion, at Old Trafford. Despite the Seagulls enjoying a strong start to the season, we’ll go into the game having won each of our last six outings against the south-coast side – our best current run versus any of the other 19 Premier League clubs.
For the first time since 2009, the Reds don’t have a Boxing Day appointment, meaning you’ll have to wait nine days for your next first-team fix. And it’s another meeting with a newly appointed manager, as Eddie Howe will be in the dugout for Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Three of United’s last four clashes with the Magpies have finished 4-1 in our favour and there’ll be plenty of festive cheer if that scoreline is repeated.
It seems we always play Burnley around this time of year and the Clarets will be the last top-flight opponents we tick off for this season.
As with the Arsenal fixture, that one’s on Amazon Prime Video and kicks off at 20:15 GMT, from Old Trafford.
So, with 27 Premier League points up for grabs and our destiny in the other two competitions to be decided, the next six weeks or so are absolutely vital.
REMAINING FIXTURES IN 2021
20 Nov: Watford (A, 15:00)
23 Nov: Villarreal (A, 17:45)
28 Nov: Chelsea (A, 16:30)
2 Dec: Arsenal (H, 20:15)
5 Dec: Crystal Palace (H, 14:00)
8 Dec: Young Boys (H, 20:00)
11 Dec: Norwich (A, 17:30)
14 Dec: Brentford (A, 19:30)
18 Dec: Brighton (H, 12:30)
27 Dec: Newcastle (A, 20:00)
30 Dec: Burnley (H, 20:15)
All times in GMT.