The Premier League champions have a tough opening five fixtures, which could pile instant pressure on the club's new manager.
Whatever happens in the first month of the new season, Manchester United boss David Moyes was always going to be under more scrutiny than most. The Scot has replaced his iconic countryman Sir Alex Ferguson at the Old Trafford helm, and the champions’ new boss is likely to be under immediate pressure to deliver.
After a summer of discontent in the transfer market, much is being made of the new United without Ferguson. Moyes’ task to start with a flourish has been made even harder by the fixture list that the club will have to contend with in the fledgling days of the campaign.
An opening day trip to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea is followed by a match-up against title rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford. An away day at Anfield to face old enemies Liverpool is up next, before a slight reprieve in a home game against newly promoted Crystal Palace. The Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium finishes the first five games of the season.
With title rivals to play early in the piece, United and Moyes’ credentials for retaining the Premier League crown will be instantly tested. The new manager has bemoaned the fixture list that faces him in the first month of the campaign, and knows that his side will be tested straight away.
"I think it's the hardest start for 20 years that Manchester United have had,” Moyes said.
“I hope it's not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year [that] the fixtures have been made much more difficult. I find it hard to believe that's the way the balls came out of the bag, that's for sure."
Moyes’ claim of foul play has fallen on deaf ears and rightly so. The likelihood of Premier League officials fixing the early games to make it difficult for the champions is somewhat hard to believe.
United’s start has the ability to define the new manager’s tenure at the club. If the Red Devils can get off to a strong start, beating Chelsea, Swansea and Crystal Palace, and getting something from the trips to Anfield and the Etihad Stadium, it will breed a confidence in the fans. It would help convince the Old Trafford faithful and the critical British media that Moyes is the right man to lead the historic club forward, and that United’s success is not set to stop due to Ferguson’s retirement.
If United lose a couple of their early fixtures however, it piles pressure on Moyes and will make the tough job of replacing Ferguson that much tougher. Wins for Chelsea or City will simultaneously give emphasis to the other contenders for the Premier League crown, and have United most likely playing catch-up straight away. There will be plenty of people out there ready to suggest that Moyes is not the right man for the job or doesn’t have the stature and experience, and they will be out in force given the slightest of opportunities.
No one said replacing Ferguson after 26 years would be easy, but it is looking very hard straight away for Manchester United’s new boss.
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