Manchester United face some key fixtures in September that will tell us much about their hopes of winning silverware this season.
United’s 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace brought a bright start to the new campaign to a shuddering halt and Saturday’s draw at Southampton was also disappointing.
Any talk of mounting a title challenge is fanciful given some of the holes in the squad, although finishing in the top four shouldn’t be beyond United if they get their act together.
In fairness to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he has been picking what looks to be his strongest side, but the players haven’t fully delivered so far. Read on as we assess the club’s September schedule.
Leicester City (H) – September 14
Leicester have made an impressive start to the new campaign, but these are the type of games United must win if they’re to force themselves into the top four.
The Red Devils have been beaten just once by Leicester since the turn of the century and completed the double over them last season.
However, the Foxes have played well at the start of the current campaign and it would be foolish to underestimate their chances at Old Trafford.
Defender Harry Maguire will be eager to impress against his former club and United will be a popular pick with punters who can check out the football spreads here.
Astana (H) – September 19
United will be eager to get their Europa League campaign off to a winning start when they welcome Astana to Old Trafford.
The Kazakhstan proved troublesome in last season’s competition, narrowly missing out on progressing to the last 32.
They were beaten by CFR Cluj in this year’s Champions League qualifying rounds, but have safely negotiated the preliminary stage in UEFA’s secondary competition.
United will also face Partizan Belgrade and AZ Alkmaar in Group L, but should easily make it through to the knockout stage.
West Ham United (A) – September 22
United generally have a decent record against West Ham, but a 3-1 defeat in last season’s corresponding fixture should serve as a warning about what could happen if the team doesn’t play well.
The Hammers bounced back from the mauling by Manchester City by taking seven points from their next three matches and will be eager to produce a repeat performance against United at the London Stadium.
Sebastien Haller looks a solid acquisition up front and he will be need to be watched closely by United’s new-look backline.
United’s pace on the counter attack could cause the home side some difficulties and Solskjaer’s side are fancied to pick up another three points from this match.
Rochdale (H) – September 25
Solskjaer may decide to rotate his squad when United host Rochdale in the third round of the Carabao Cup.
The two sides have met just once before in senior competitive games, with the Red Devils recording a 2-0 victory in an FA Cup tie back in 1986.
Rochdale have beaten Bolton Wanderers and Carlisle to reach this stage of the competition, but they will find things much tougher at Old Trafford.
They last reached the third round back in 2011/12 and it’s difficult to imagine them progressing any further this year.
Arsenal (H) –September 30
The Gunners were brought down to earth with a bump by Liverpool after winning their opening two matches and United will be keen to expose their deficiencies when they meet at the end of September.
Victories over Burnley and Newcastle United were a promising start for Arsenal, but their shaky defence was ruthlessly exposed at Anfield.
For a team with issues at the back signing David Luiz seems a strange move and the former Chelsea defender was pulled from pillar to post by Liverpool.
If United can exploit Luiz’s rash tendencies they are more than capable of recording another victory to end September with a nine-point haul.