The festive period of English soccer is one of the most hectic periods of the year. From now until early January, teams will be competing in four Premier League games over the next two weeks and that may include one or two extra games for League Cup and FA Cup play. It’s traditional, very exciting and it really separates the contenders from the pretenders but it’s also very tough on teams and everyone has to rotate their rosters as effectively as possible in order to have success.
Manchester United is getting out in front of this festive period by trying to argue that they have a tougher festive period than their rivals and the rest of the Premier League.
Manchester United shares a valid point or two. For example, Arsenal is able to stay in London for home and away games all through to their FA Cup game at Championship side Nottingham Forest January 7 and get to play a day Liverpool a day early this weekend. But that would be expected since five teams are based in London. This also comes off as incessant whining that a spoiled fan would produce on social media, not someone from the actual team on the actual site. Take a look at their post explaining why they have it tougher than everyone else.
Jose Mourinho’s side have a total of six non-matchdays over the period – no club has fewer – while London trio Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham United can boast three more, due to the Gunners’ clash with Liverpool being brought forward to this Friday and the Spurs versus West Ham derby moving back to 4 January.
Chelsea’s matches are nicely spaced out to give them a total of eight days between games, while Liverpool and Manchester City have seven. The reigning champions have three days between their second and third games, unlike the one to be experienced by United and 14 other Premier League sides. A short trip to Arsenal on 3 January gives the Blues and the Gunners a little more grace.
With 12 points up for grabs as we move from 2017 to 2018, it all seems a far cry from October and November, when we had three and four league games respectively throughout those whole months. December is a different beast altogether with nine outings in all competitions, plus a quick turnaround between Saturday’s tea-time clash with Southampton on 30 December and the away game at resurgent Everton on New Year’s Day [Monday], also kicking off at 17:30 GMT.
Expect no let-up in January if we progress in the cup competitions, with the Derby County game in the FA Cup third round now scheduled for the Friday after the Toffees test on the Monday. It’s the price of success, in many respects, but it all means Jose will have to juggle his resources accordingly in order to deal with such an exhausting programme.
Oh for crying out loud, spare me this petty complaining. Oh boo hoo, we have to play with fewer days off than this team, that’s not fair! WAAAHH!!! Guess what, this is going to be tough for every player on every team. It may not be right and the FA should do something about fixture congestion but it’s delusional to believe that Manchester United will be the only team who will suffer because of their festive schedule.
If anything, Manchester United should revel in the festive period because they have the resources and the players to be able to change up their squad and not be horrendously weak. Their opponents Leicester City, Burnley, Southampton and Everton don’t have that luxury. They’re trying to make it work with their 11 starters and some are making it work better than others.
What I’m saying is that Manchester United can rearrange their squad and out of Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, can come up with a serviceable front three and #10 while two of those players can come off the bench when needed. Burnley only wished they had that luxury.
Maybe Manchester United is just following in the heels of their manager, who has perfected the “it’s everyone else’s fault but mine” mentality that has caused even neutral fans to roll their eyes every time he opens his mouth. This week, after their League Cup quarterfinal loss to Championship side Bristol City, Mourinho said they were lucky to leave with a 2-1 win in the final seconds.
“They were a bit lucky. But they fought a lot to be lucky…They played brilliantly, fought like this was the game of their lives, which it probably was, and I think a beautiful day for football, because a team from a lower division won. To get into a semi-final, a big day for them, their supporters.”
“I congratulate them. I don’t want me saying they are lucky to be the main thing of it. The main thing of it is that they won and fought hard for that.”
If Mourinho didn’t want this to come off as to say that Bristol City were lucky, then don’t say Bristol City was lucky. Is Mourinho’s ego that massive that he can’t accept that a weaker side on their best day was able to beat the mighty Manchester United on their worst and just say they earned the win?
Yes, Manchester United had a few shots go off the post but here’s the reality. Bristol City entered this game not being intimidated by one of the top teams in England who has multiple players making more money in a week than Bristol City’s entire team. Normally, a Championship team would sit back and counter, letting their Premier league opponent take over the game for a chance to win.
Instead, Manchester United had a slight edge in possession (54/46) and had one fewer shot on target than Bristol City. Bristol City took it to United when they weren’t expecting, didn’t have an answer and Bristol City won. Upsets happen to even the best teams. Don’t think it doesn’t happen to you and move on.
Same with the festive period. Every team is going to have a tough stretch and while it’s not even for everyone, everyone will be going through a difficult couple weeks like any other year. I could also point out that last season, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham had more away games, fewer days in between play and/or tougher opponents (Liverpool/Manchester City and Tottenham/Chelsea) than Manchester United’s festive period last season but that wouldn’t be convenient to United’s current argument.
How about instead of complaining, figure out how to get through this period as effectively as possible and move on. The festive period usually separates the contenders from the pretenders so go out and show you’re a contender who’s worthy of going for trophies rather than complaining about it and preemptively making excuses if things don’t go your way.