The first international break of the new campaign is soon over and when club action resumes, Manchester United face 7 upcoming matches in a 23-day span before the next international break arrives in October -- this includes 4 Premier League ties, 2 European nights, and a League Cup clash.
* Wigan Athletic | Premier League | Saturday, September 15
* Galatasaray | UEFA Champions League | Wednesday, September 19
* (a) Liverpool | Premier League | Sunday, September 23
* Newcastle United | League Cup | Wednesday, September 26
* Tottenham Hotspur | Premier League | Saturday, September 29
* CFR Cluj-Napoca (a) | UEFA Champions League | Tuesday, October 2
* Newcastle United (a) | Premier League | Sunday, October 7
What jumps out at me? Well, we now have midweek ties so squad rotation will be key. What worries me though is our injury situation -- especially in defense -- hindering our depth and potentially straining some players by having them log heavy minutes at this early stage of the season. The other thing that catches my attention is the difficulty of those 4 league ties. They aren't the most daunting by any means, but each of those fixtures offers an unique challenge. Let's briefly go over each tie one-by-one:
Wigan (Premier League)
Remember, our 0-1 defeat by the Latics last April was a result that contributed to United blowing an 8-point lead in the title race. Ever since manager Roberto Martinez switched his side to a back three system, they have been a formidable foe. Tactics will be a factor in this match and United's wingers will have to show more than they have recently because their ability to pin back Wigan's wing-backs -- or perhaps their lack of ability -- will be key. Another factor to consider is that the likes of Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez (Chicharito), Danny Welbeck, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, and Anders Lindegaard are all coming off international duty -- Fergie may have a few surprise selections and he will certainly be thinking about squad rotation.
Galatasaray (Champions League)
Quite simply, we learned last year not to take advancement to the knock-out stages for granted -- even when you're the clear favorite to top the group. Away ties in Europe are notoriously difficult so it will be key to earn three points for each match at Old Trafford. This contest occurs just 4 days after Wigan and 4 days prior to the always tense ties at Anfield. It will be a difficult balance for manager Sir Alex Ferguson handle these 3 tough matches in a 9-day span. In this particular one, he will need to field a strong enough side that can earn three points.
[a] Liverpool (Premier League)
They may be LOLiverpool at the moment but this will forever be a difficult fixture. The Patrice Evra-Luiz Suarez row has certainly made things even more tense. I expect a strong side to be named, especially with the upcoming midweek match being a League Cup one, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a safe and boring 4-5-1 sort of system. This seems even more likely versus Brendan Rodgers' 4-3-3 possession-based system. A key player in this match could be Shinji Kagawa -- Arsenal's Santi Cazorla recently ripped apart Liverpool by receiving the ball between the lines on counterattacks.
Newcastle (League Cup)
Expect to see key players rested, a few others perhaps using this match to get a game, and for some youngsters to be blooded in. For die-hard United fans, that's all enough to intrigue. I personally will be excited if Alexander Buttner, Nick Powell, Angelo Henriquez, and a few young players coming up from the youth system get a run. I honestly don't care about this result.
Tottenham (Premier League)
Spurs by this point should be in the process of getting all of their transfer day deadline signings acclimated. They have a plethora of dangerous attacking midfielders now but they are a work in progress -- and their failure to sign Moutinho as a Luka Modric replacement may be detrimental to their top four hopes. They have the piano now, and they've been working on finding the piano movers, but I think their weak-link is a lack of a piano player (Modric, Moutinho). We should be rested by this match after the relative meaningless midweek League Cup tie. At home, three points are expected.
[a] CFR Cluj (Champions League)
I quite honestly know nothing about this side but I do know they qualified for the group-stages by beating FC Basel over a two-legged tie this summer. We -- and Nemanja Vidic -- are all familiar with Basel. Away to Romania won't be easy but Fergie will likely trying to field a strong enough side to take all 3 points there. Get six points from this tie and the home one with Galatasaray, we're in prime position to win the group. Expect a mix of a first-choice side with other strong squad players mixed in. A difficult away match with Newcastle awaits at the weekend will be strongly considered...
[a] Newcastle (Premier League)
Remember this fixture last season? Yohan Cabaye and Chiek Tiote completely destroyed our midfield. This will be a tough match. I've briefly gone over six matches now and so much will happen during that time so previewing this now is a futile task. Hopefully we're relatively healthy by this point, and hopefully we've figured out a clever solution to having a bit more presence in the center of the park. I know many of you don't like the international breaks, but it's possible that the the one following this match could come at a convenient time.