Monday 23 April 2018

Man United handed one crucial advantage over Man City as Champions League fixtures are confirmed

Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (L) shakes hands with Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola after the EFL (English Football League) Cup fourth round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on October 26, 2016. AFP / Oli SCARFF
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (L) shakes hands with Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola after the EFL (English Football League) Cup fourth round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on October 26, 2016. AFP / Oli SCARFF
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Manchester United were handed a favourable Champions League group stage draw on Thursday evening and their fortune continued as the fixture dates for their Group A matches were confirmed.

United, who qualified by winning the Europa League in May, were thrown into a group alongside Benfica, Basle and CSKA Moscow, with their odds to go all the way to the final in Kiev next May slashed soon after the draw.

United avoided possible match-up against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus, yet it is the configuration of their Group A fixtures that will put an even bigger smile on the face of manager Jose Mourinho.

During his time at Chelsea and now as United boss, Mourinho has has suggested Premier League authorities should do more to assist English teams by moving fixtures to help their preparation for Champions League matches.

Yet he looks to be the big winner of a fixture nightmare this time, with local rivals Manchester City getting the rough end of the deal ahead of what could be a crucial derby game against United in the Premier League in early December.

United have been handed a home game against CSKA Moscow on the Tuesday before their meeting their Manchester foes at Old Trafford, yet City will only get back from a gruelling 3,500-mile round trip to Shakhtar Donetsk in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Even if the derby match is moved to the Sunday, United should have a fresher set of players to head into a game that could have a decisive outcome on the Premier League title race, so we may not hear Mr Mourinho complaining about Champions League fixture issues this season.

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