Jose Mourinho has been left angered and perplexed by the scheduling of the Premier League matches that follow Manchester United’s three Champions League group stage away games.
Each of United’s European away assignments are on Wednesday nights, starting with the match against CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital, and followed by 3pm Saturday kick-offs.
But Manchester City’s Premier League game at Watford earlier this month - which was preceded by their trip to Rotterdam to face Feyenoord - was the only other guaranteed fixture to be scheduled for 3pm on a Saturday following a Champions League Wednesday away match.
Whereas United have a total of just 196 hours of respite between Champions League away games and their next Premier League fixture, Liverpool have 321 hours, Tottenham 290, Chelsea 250 and City 219 hours, although that figure will increase if the Manchester derby in December is moved from its current 3pm slot on a Saturday to a later time or date.
United have a mid-afternoon game at home with Crystal Palace this Saturday, even though they face a 1,600-mile journey from Moscow straight after the match with CSKA, are not due to arrive back in Manchester until around 4.30am on Thursday and have to train later in the day.
By contrast, Liverpool play Spartak Moscow in the Russian capital on Tuesday but then do not face Newcastle United at St James’ Park until 4.30pm on Sunday, which gives Jürgen Klopp’s side almost 50 hours more respite than United, which has left Mourinho exasperated.
United face a similar situation following their Champions League games away versus Benfica next month and Basel in November. United will not arrive home until the early hours on the Thursday after both matches and must then face Saturday 3pm kick-offs away at Huddersfield Town and at home against Brighton respectively, which means just over 65 hours between fixtures.
Yet Liverpool’s Champions League away match with Maribor on Tuesday 17 October is followed by a 4pm Sunday kick off at Tottenham – 114 hours apart – and their visit to Sevilla in November is also on a Tuesday and followed by 5.30pm Saturday kick-off at home to Chelsea, which means 92 hours respite.
Two of Chelsea’s three Champions League group games are away on a Wednesday but they have been given 5.30pm Saturday kick-offs and their trip to Roma next month is five days before they play United at Stamford Bridge at 4.30pm on a Sunday.
Tottenham’s game at home with Liverpool is five days after they travel to the Bernabéu to play Real Madrid and their other two Champions League away assignments are also on Tuesdays. City travel to Italy to play Napoli on the first Wednesday in November but they do not then play Arsenal in the Premier League until the Sunday afternoon.
Mourinho was a vocal critic last season of the scheduling of United’s Europa League and Premier League games and felt little consideration was given to the demands on players. For example, the Portuguese was furious that United’s trip to Middlesbrough in March was scheduled for 12pm on a Sunday, even though United did return until the Friday morning from southern Russia after a game against FC Rostov.
But his hopes of a kinder fixture schedule this season have been compromised and he is struggling to understand why United have been put at a much greater disadvantage to their immediate rivals.