World Cup play off dates come at a bad time for Manchester United
So there is some good news for fans of club football: There are no more international breaks until March.
March’s internationals are not usually particularly intense. They are often a mix of early qualifying matches or friendlies, a tune-up for a major tournament ahead.
March 2022 will be different, as this is when the World Cup play-off fixtures will be held.
A number of Manchester United players are set to be involved too, with Portugal dropping down to second place in their group by a 2-1 home defeat to Serbia.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot will be joined by Victor Lindelof after Sweden finished second in their group, and Scotland’s Scott McTominay.
High intensity matches at critical point in the season
The World Cup play-offs will take huge mental and physical energy out of United’s players competing.
Only three of 12 teams competing in the play-offs will be successful in making it to World Cup 2022.
So these matches between March 24 and 29 will be a huge distraction for several of United’s key players, and the games come in the midst of a demanding run of Premier League matches.
Before the play-offs: City (a) March 5, Tottenham (h) March 12, Liverpool (a) March 19.
After the play-offs: Leicester (h) April 2, Everton (a) April 9.
Having just played the reverse set of these fixtures, and gained just one win, United could do without the distraction of the World Cup play-offs for the club’s top stars.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes be able to give the preceding club games their all, knowing their country need them at 100 per cent for the play-offs?
United have a tough enough task as it is with that fixture list, without a set of crucial international fixtures bang in the midst of it.
The possibility of United stars going up against each other in the play-offs might not do much for squad harmony either. The draw will be made at the end of the month.
Players involved will be desperate to avoid injury, and the anxiety of desire to make the 2022 World Cup will play on their minds.
It will be hard for them to lift themselves for United’s games after the play-offs if they are unsuccessful. Failure would hit Fernandes and Ronaldo especially hard.
The stretch of games will require careful management, whoever is in charge of United next March.
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