The fixture lists were announced yesterday, showing United to have away Premiership fixtures following all of their key Champions League games.
The managers of all clubs playing in Europe often have a thing or two to say about the timing of league games in relation to the games they have to play on the continent.
This season, it appears as though United come off worse than their rivals, meaning that our chances of retaining the league title for the third year are hindered. Chelsea and Liverpool both have four home games following their games in Europe, whilst Arsenal, who are slightly better off than us, have just one.
United have no home games, meaning they will travel away in the league following all six of the Champions League group stages matches, bringing about much frustration from the United camp.
Is it really necessary for the FA to allow our rivals to have such favourable fixtures?
“Every other country seems to do everything to help their teams in Europe when it comes to domestic fixtures,” said United legend, Paddy Crerand. ”But not here – and it is a disgrace. United are representing this country abroad in the biggest club tournament in the world, yet the fixture list works against them. The draw can have you in some far-flung part of Eastern Europe, not getting home until 4am on Thursday morning. Then you have to prepare for an away trip in the Premier League. It’s all wrong.”
Crerand reflected on the season before last, where United travelled to Italy in the Champions League semi-finals to play AC Milan on the Wednesday night, only to have a midday kick off away to City on the Saturday. United were knocked out of Europe that night, with just one of our first choice four defenders available. Fortunately, following a dull and uninspiring derby day, United won 1-0 courtesy of a Ronaldo penalty, and were deemed Champions the following day when Chelsea failed to beat Arsenal.
Regardless, Crerand takes a look at the impact the FA’s behaviour in relation to those teams playing in Europe has. “Two seasons ago it really affected the club,” he said. “We lost away to Milan because of injuries and then were faced with a derby against Manchester City on the Saturday. It took a lot of juggling to get through that game and eventually win the title.”
The important point to note here is that every season the same complaints are voiced, yet nothing is done about it. The FA seem entirely unwilling to accomodate the difficulties their fixture list brings about, but the reason why remains unclear.
How difficult can it be to organise the fixture lists to allow the teams competing in Europe to be given a home game the weekend following? If that is too difficult, although I’m not sure why it would be, then all teams playing in Europe, whether that’s the Champions League or UEFA Cup, should be given fair and equal fixtures. Chelsea and Liverpool have an unfair advantage this season, playing just two away games following their CL matches, in contrast to United’s six and Arsenal’s five. Why?
An argument against evening out the fixtures is that apparently they are picked at random. Maybe someone from the FA would like to explain why we have had ‘Super Sunday’ two years in a row. Or why the London and Manchester derbies between United and City, as well as Arsenal and Chelsea, take place on the same weekend this season. They’ve got to be having a laugh if they think anyone believes those fixtures are picked at random. If the match days can be switched to accomodate Sky Television, why can’t they be changed for the benefit of the English clubs playing in Europe?
So whilst uniformed uniformed ABUs rant about the FA being in our back pocket, this is just yet another example of the FA making our lives needlessly difficult. And the following season, it will be Wenger/Rafa/whoever replaces Scolari, complaining about the same things. The levels of incompetency running throughout the FA never cease to amaze me.
Do you think fixtures for teams playing in Europe should be made equal? Or is it just ‘one of those things’?