With the World Cup now a distant memory, the 2018/19 season is almost upon us and we're all excited for the long-awaited return of the Premier League.
Manchester United get the campaign under way in Friday night’s eagerly anticipated opener against Leicester City at Old Trafford. However, since the Reds last kicked a ball in a competitive game, there have been a number of changes both inside and outside of the club.
Before another nine months of drama and excitement begin, we bring you up to speed with everything that’s different ahead of the new term…
AN EARLIER TRANSFER DEADLINE
As you are probably aware, the summer transfer window will close much earlier this season compared to previous years. The deadline for United and fellow top-flight clubs to sign players is 17:00 BST on Thursday (9 August) – just 27 hours before the Reds kick off the campaign against the Foxes. This new agreement, which applies only to the acquisition of players, will be for Premier League clubs only and has no bearing on other leagues and competitions. Clubs will still be able to sell or loan players to other leagues whose transfer windows are open. The winter window will run in January as usual.
THREE NEW OPPONENTS FOR UNITED
The Reds will come up against three different but familiar teams this season after Cardiff City, Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers were promoted from the Championship last term – swapping places with Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City, who were relegated. Wolves ran away with the Championship title in 2017/18, while Cardiff finished second to give Neil Warnock a fourth crack at the top flight in his long managerial career. Fulham beat Aston Villa in the play-off final at Wembley and their head coach Slavisa Jokanovic will be the first Serbian to manage in the Premier League.
A NEW GROUND TO VISIT
United’s loyal army of fans who travel to away games will have a brand new stadium to tick off their list this term as Tottenham Hotspur are set to move into a new home, built on the site of their old White Hart Lane ground. With 62,062 seats, it will be the second-largest stadium in the Premier League, behind our very own Theatre of Dreams. The ground will also host NFL matches with a special American football pitch, concerts and other major events every season. United, who were the last visitors to the old White Hart Lane in May 2017, are scheduled to travel to north London to face Spurs on 12 January 2019.
FOUR NEW MANAGERS
Since the end of last season, four Premier League clubs have changed their manager. Chelsea replaced one Italian with another as Antonio Conte made way for ex-Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri, while Arsenal appointed former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery as their replacement for long-serving Arsene Wenger. Everton finally landed their man as Marco Silva arrived in place of Sam Allardyce and former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has replaced David Moyes at West Ham United.
A NEW BALL TO PLAY WITH
A new season wouldn’t be complete without a new ball – and this year United’s stars will be playing with the most advanced ball yet in the Premier League era. There were once 32 panels on a ball – now, for the first time ever, the Nike Merlin ball for 2018/19 has just four. Fewer panels means fewer seams, eliminating hard spots and opening the ball up to more sweet spots for players to shoot or pass with greater accuracy. Let’s hope we see it hit the back of the net plenty of times this season for the Reds!
NEW FACES IN THE MIDDLE
There will be four new match officials who could take charge of United’s games in the Premier League this term. Referees Simon Hooper and David Coote have both been promoted to the Select Group of officials who oversee top-flight games, while Dan Robathan and Neil Davies could be running the line at Old Trafford this term after being elevated to the list of Premier League assistant referees. Incidentally, Friday night’s season opener against Leicester will be refereed by experienced whistler Andre Marriner.
NO VAR – YET!
It may have been in place at the World Cup, where it caused its fair share of controversy, but the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will not be used in the Premier League this season. However, the technology is still being trialled behind the scenes and will be used in selected FA Cup and Carabao Cup games. A statement from the Premier League said:
“The clubs agreed that advanced testing will continue to the end of season 2018/19 to make further improvements to the system, especially around communication inside the stadium and for those following at home and around the world.”
CHANGES TO DISCIPLINARY SANCTIONS
A totting-up system similar to player cautions has been introduced for managers or other members of team staff for breaches of discipline in the technical area. Every time a referee issues an official, stage-one warning to a manager or other member of team staff in the technical area, the caution will be logged and they will be informed. Sanctions will subsequently be imposed after four, eight, 12 and 16 warnings per individual. In addition, yellow cards picked up by players in Premier League matches will only be relevant to that competition. A player who receives five cautions before the 19th league match will be given a one-match suspension, to be served in the Premier League. Ten cautions received by the 32-match mark will result in a two-match ban for the offending player.
HANDHELD DEVICES CAN BE USED IN DUGOUTS
Although the general rules of the game remain unchanged for the season ahead, managers and officials now have the option to use small handheld devices, such as phones and tablets, in the dugout as a means of communication. This means they could be used to relay tactical information to players or speak to managers or coaches who may be watching the game from the directors' box or the stands. However, they cannot be used to watch or review match footage.
NEW UNDER-18S COACH FOR UNITED
There’s a new man in charge of our Under-18s, following Kieran McKenna’s promotion to Jose Mourinho’s first-team coaching staff. Neil Ryan has taken over the reins and will be looking to build on the success of last season, when United won the Under-18 Premier League North title. The young Reds’ bid to retain their crown begins on Friday afternoon when Derby County visit the Aon Training Complex for a 13:00 BST kick-off in what will be Ryan’s first competitive match at the helm.
A NEW WOMEN’S TEAM
2018/19 will mark an historic season for Manchester United Women as Casey Stoney’s exciting young team embark on their inaugural campaign since launching earlier this summer. Our women’s team will be competing in the FA Women’s Championship, with the aim of gaining promotion to the FA Women’s Super League at the first time of asking. The season officially gets up and running for Stoney’s side with a tasty fixture against rivals Liverpool at Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park on Sunday 19 August in the first round of the Continental Tyres League Cup.
A MINI MAKEOVER FOR OLD TRAFFORD
And finally, the Theatre of Dreams has something of a new look heading into the new season. After hosting the Soccer Aid for Unicef match, as well as Rolling Stones and Billy Joel concerts, the stadium has had a lick of paint and the pitch has been relaid to ensure everything is ready for the big kick-off on Friday night, when the eyes of the football world will be on our home as the 27th Premier League season commences.