There will be little room for excuses when Manchester United make the short trip to face Man City in the Premier League this weekend. It will have been 17 days since Erik ten Hag’s side were last in action and 28 days since their most recent domestic outing.
Matches after an international break can sometimes be slow burners, but that is simply unacceptable when it is a game of such magnitude that will require the highest level of intensity. Manchester United’s performance against City on Sunday will set the benchmark for a packed month that will see them play nine matches and face the gruelling test of two games a week up until the World Cup.
This is a schedule that is sure to test Ten Hag’s squad to the limits, with a pool of periphery players sure to get a chance in the coming weeks across the varying competitions and commitments. For the match at the Etihad, United will need to go with their strongest available selection, and barring any surprise call, it seems like Ten Hag already has an XI in mind based on recent performances.
David de Gea and Jadon Sancho will be fit to start this weekend given they were not involved in the recent international matches for their respective nations, while a whole host of players have so far returned unscathed.
Brazil face Tunisia on Tuesday night, meaning there is one last hurdle for Antony and Casemiro to clear before they return to Carrington, while Lisandro Martinez will be involved for Argentina against Jamaica in the very early hours of Wednesday morning.
It means the trio face a bit of a race to get back to Manchester in time for training this week, but with United not playing until Sunday there is little concern about them being back, given they can take part in sessions on Friday and Saturday beforehand.
Scott McTominay will likely feature for Scotland when they face Ukraine in Poland on Tuesday night, while Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes will both be looking to end the Nations League campaign for Portugal on a high against Spain tonight too.
Cristiano Ronaldo was poor in the thumping win over Czechia last week. But he is not even guaranteed a start for United this weekend if either Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial make it back in time from injury.
Elsewhere, there has already been a quadruple fitness boost, with Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen all completing international duty without any concerns. Luke Shaw, although not expected to start against Man City, also returned injury free and did so on the back of an encouraging display for England.
The same can’t be said for club captain Harry Maguire, who not only conceded a penalty and gave away the ball for Germany’s second goal, but was also seen limping post-match as he made his way through the inner sanctum of Wembley.
With nearly two weeks since their last match, Ten Hag has had plenty of time to meticulously plan his approach against Man City this weekend. He should already know the side he wants to start with at the Etihad on Sunday, and with five days to go, five of his starters have already reported back fully fit.