Jose Mourinho has faced plenty of challenges so far in his tenure as Manchester United manager but potentially his most difficult one is about to begin this Saturday with a visit from Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.
From this Saturday, United’s festive fixture schedule kicks in and we will play no less than 11 times over the 37 days starting from 24 November. For a month, United will be playing a game pretty much every three days and if you haven’t seen it, here is United’s full fixture list from Crystal Palace this weekend through to Newcastle away to kick off the new year:
Sat 24 Nov planned match | English Premier League | Man Utd vs C Palace
Tue 27 Nov planned match | Champions League | Man Utd vs BSC Young Boys
Sat 01 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Southampton vs Man Utd
Wed 05 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Man Utd vs Arsenal
Sat 08 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Man Utd vs Fulham
Wed 12 Dec planned match | Champions League | Valencia vs Man Utd
Sun 16 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Liverpool vs Man Utd
Sat 22 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Cardiff vs Man Utd
Wed 26 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Man Utd vs Huddersfield
Sun 30 Dec planned match | English Premier League | Man Utd vs Bournemouth
Wed 02 Jan planned match | English Premier League | Newcastle vs Man Utd
For a manager who rarely rotates, for a manager who doesn’t often steer from his trusted team when they are fit to play, this is going to be a big challenge for Mourinho at a very testing time. The fact United head into the Crystal Palace with no fewer than six first team players potentially out injured certainly doesn’t help and the United squad is going to be tested to the limits in this period.
And it’s not just the amount of games, it’s who United are playing and the context of how important some of the ties are.
Liverpool away. December 16. It’s the first fixture any United fan looks for and a game which needs no introduction. Win there and Mourinho will be given plenty of grace by United fans just like Louis van Gaal was when Juan Mata used Anfield as his canvas on which to paint the perfect performance. Lose there? It will be an all-consuming defeat, much like the derby was.
Then there is Valencia away in the Champions League. So long as United can beat Young Boys at home, which they should do, then it will be the game where United effectively decide whether we are going through to the knockout rounds of the competition or not. And Arsenal at home is thrown in there too at the start of December.
When United headed into the Chelsea game I said he had six games to prove this United squad is capable, that he is capable, of turning things around. United did that, regardless of the Juventus defeat at home and the City result away, and he’s now got a chance to solidify his support but with so many injury concerns and tough games coming up, it’s a hard challenge lying ahead.