The fixture list for the coming season came out last week and it has to be said that it makes pleasant reading for United fans. Of course, you never know how any matches are going to go but for a side with a new manager coming in (as well as hopefully new players) the fact that we don’t face a top four side until the end of October is rather nice.
Like last season, United again face Swansea in the season opener. Last season’s game finished 4-1 to Moyes’ boys in what ended up being the first of many, many false dawns under the Scot. This year’s match is at home to the Welsh side and Louis van Gaal will be confident of getting a win in his first competitive game in front of the Old Trafford faithful. Unlike last season however, our next two games are not against Chelsea and Liverpool but instead Sunderland and Burnley. Gus Poyet’s men will be in good spirits following their escape from the clutches of relegation last season and will have had their first pre-season under the Uruguayan but given the optimism that has already been brought to the club by van Gaal (even before his arrival) you’d expect a win in this game. Sean Dyche’s Burnley side were exceptionally impressive in last season’s Championship season and will be hopeful coming into the Premier League season but with a modest budget and limited squad at this level it’s a fixture that van Gaal would be disappointed not to win.
Into September and United face QPR in their next home game. Harry Redknapp’s men snatched promotion in the last minute of their Championship play off final against Derby in May but have much work to do to ensure they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Overspending on transfers and wages have long been their problem so ‘Arry will be looking to refine and improve his squad before the start of the season. However, regardless of what improvements they make it’s hard to see anything other than a United win in this game. Next up is Leicester City away and West Ham at home and I don’t feel it’s overly optimistic to be confident of victories in these games too. Obviously, a team can score a last-minute equaliser out of the blue or shock you at any time but on paper these games look extremely winnable, as is the away match against Alan Irvine’s West Brom. The former Everton employee was a surprise choice to succeed the doomed-from-the-start Pepe Mel and at this point it’s hard to know how he’ll approach the job or how he’ll have them play. Regardless, given their relative lack of fire power it’s not unrealistic to foresee another win in this game.
Next up is a home match against Roberto Martinez’ Everton side who impressed so much last season. Obviously every game is interesting but this one really intrigues me. Seeing van Gaal’s fast-paced possession game against a side who try to do the same will make for good viewing. Both sides will no doubt go for this and Everton will be confident after last season’s win at Old Trafford so this will be the toughest of the games to date.
Perhaps it’s the optimist in me but I genuinely feel that with a good start United could potentially go into their ninth and tenth matches (against Chelsea and Manchester City respectively) with maximum points. Obviously that remains unlikely; very few sides win their opening eight games, but if Louis van Gaal can instil the sort of belief and group mentality with United that he has with the Dutch squad then next season looks very positive.
Last season was effectively defined by United losing the ability to strike fear in teams simply by being themselves. Van Gaal will no doubt consider it one of his first jobs to bring that fear back, and the fixture list for the coming season gives him a great chance of doing just that.