Early look ahead to United's visits to Partizan Belgrade and Norwich
After a promising performance against Liverpool, Manchester United now have to build on it.
In some ways, the Europa League trip to Partizan Belgrade is a big inconvenience this week.
United need to start climbing up the Premier League table, currently sitting in 13th place.
A win away to Norwich City has to be a priority next weekend. The Canaries sit in 18th, and their form has been poor despite surprising City last month.
Losing would be an embarrassment for United. Unfortunately these are the types of games we have lost in recent seasons.
Just look at Newcastle a fortnight ago. Huddersfield, Wolves and Brighton are all teams to also beat United on their home turf shortly after winning promotion.
Our away form is wretched. The last time we won on our travels was in Paris. Lose or draw the Norwich game, and the home draw with Liverpool suddenly becomes a poor result too.
Ideally we would get the whole week to prepare for the Norwich game, build on the Liverpool draw, and head into the game fresh. This won’t be the case.
Nothing is simple
The Europa League fixture is an inconvenience to our Premier League ambition, but United can’t afford to approach it that way.
Partizan Belgrade are a team United should not underestimate. They have scored 23 goals in 11 games domestically and are level with us on points at the top of Group L.
If we can win the fixture, qualification will be nearly assured. Lose, and AZ Alkmaar will be back in the mix if they beat Astana and United could end up sitting third, with three games remaining – albeit two at home.
A victory would give the team confidence heading into the Norwich fixture, building on the Liverpool draw, and finally recording an away win.
The worry is, ‘how much might it take out of us’, and will our efforts in Serbia cost us against Norwich?
It is not just the travel and limited preparation time for the Norwich game which is problematic for United.
Our thin squad and injury issues mean some players will need to pull double duty. Others may have to make it three games in eight days.
Anthony Martial is a tricky issue. He needs a start, but is he up to playing twice in four days? Is the Norwich game more important?
The same will apply to Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw if they are passed fit. Nemanja Matic’s injury in midfield stretches our options.
The trio of McTominay, Fred and Pereira may be our best option against Norwich, but how many of these can we afford to pick against Partizan?
There is a chance to bring in young players, but an away game in Serbia might be a tricky environment for them.
Perhaps though, being away from the Old Trafford spotlight may work to their advantage. Angel Gomes for instance has featured for England at youth level in such circumstances.
James Garner is certainly in contention for a midfield place, and it is probable Brandon Williams gets a start at left-back. If they do start, it will probably mean they won’t start against Norwich.
Nothing about the next few days will be simple, but this is a challenge Solskjaer and United’s players must embrace.
They must look on it as an opportunity and be prepared to give everything to help United shake off the unwanted away record. Games at Partizan and Norwich are both winnable.
If this time next week United are toasting two successive wins, our season might start to finally pick up.
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