Monday 6 February 2017

Five games in 16 days for United in a season-defining schedule

United have only one more league game this month but the squad's mental and physical resolve will be tested to the limit in a frenetic February.

The visit of Walter Mazzari's Watford is the first of five games in 16 games across every competition, with United the only English team to be fighting on all four fronts. 

After the meeting with the Hornets, the Reds don't play another Premier League fixture for almost a month - with an FA Cup fifth round tie, the EFL Cup final and the resumption of our European campaign on the horizon.

The Manchester derby was originally scheduled for the 26th February, but will now be re-arranged as that's the same date we face Southampton at Wembley for the first major silverware of the season. 

Paul Pogba will go head-to-head with his brother Mathias in the two-legged Europa League tie with Saint-Etienne, with the Old Trafford meeting to be played a week Thursday, 16th.

There are six days between the two ties against the Ligue 1 outfit, but it's no rest for the wicked as United face a third successive FA Cup tie against Championship opponents on the following weekend.

Having seen off Warren Joyce's Wigan, United hit the road for the first time in this season's tournament as they travel to Blackburn Rovers

The fifth round tie with Owen Coyle's second tier strugglers kick offs on Sunday 19th, with a 4.15 kick off, and is the last stage in which replays will be used (from this season onwards, the quarter finals will be played to a straight finish).

With these three games in quick succession, how Jose rotates and utilises his squad will be key. 

The Europa League would appear to be a realistic target for the Reds with United having named a near full strength side for every match in the competition so far.

For all the talk of the tournament being an unwelcome distraction, we've never won it before (the only major trophy missing from our collection), so that alone surely makes it worthwhile. 

Both FA Cup ties have featured a heavily rotated - albeit still strong - Reds team and Jose is likely to do the same again for these fixtures. 

He will want to give everyone game time but will also be wary of the risk of injury and fatigue with the cup final in mind at the end of the month.

United's nine successive wins over Christmas and New Year came with only domestic duties to take care of.

With an upcoming fixture schedule that encompasses demands both at home and abroad, the squad's mettle and stomach for the fight will be tested to the full in the coming weeks. 

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