Manchester United have to play nine games in 30 days in a fixture pile-up likely to further infuriate Jose Mourinho.
The United manager criticised the authorities last week when he claimed that “we have a lot of enemies” and April has thrown up an exhausting programme after the clash with Manchester City was rearranged.
The Manchester derby will now be played on Thursday, April 27, after being postponed because of United’s involvement in last month’s EFL Cup final. United will also face Anderlecht twice in the Europa League quarter-finals next month.
United still have to rearrange a Premier League game against Southampton, and could yet face a two-legged Europa League semi-final and a final should they progress.
Mourinho criticised the hectic schedule after last week’s 1-0 win over Rostov, blaming fatigue for the loss of Paul Pogba with a hamstring injury.
“We have lots of enemies,” he said. “Normally it would just be Rostov but we have a lot more. It is difficult to play Monday with 10 men [United lost an FA Cup tie 1-0 to Chelsea after Ander Herrera was sent off], it is difficult to play now, it is difficult to play at 12 o’clock on a Sunday. We will probably lose at Middlesbrough now. Fatigue has a price.”
United did manage to win 3-1 at Middlesbrough on Sunday, to improve their hopes of a top-four finish, but next month promises to be a severe test for Mourinho and his players.
Yet while the manager has bemoaned the fixture congestion, United confirmed that they would tour the United States this summer, with some of the games part of the highly regarded International Champions Cup.
United will play in five cities across the country including Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Santa Clara and Washington DC. A potential game against City in the States could be arranged, after their planned fixture in Beijing during pre-season last year was called off following torrential rain. Two games against Major League Soccer sides are also expected.
Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, said: “Visiting North America will give the team the best possible preparation for the new season, using top-class training facilities and playing in some great stadiums.
“We have witnessed first-hand the passion and support for the club in the US in recent years, so naturally it is something that everybody is very much looking forward to this summer.”
Meanwhile, United’s Phil Jones believes the character in the squad could help produce a memorable end to the season, after three years of underachievement.
United have moved to within four points of fourth-placed Liverpool in the league, with two games in hand, and are favourites to win the Europa League.
Jones said: “It has been difficult. It has been a transition period as everyone knows. I don’t think you can call anyone for a lack of fight playing football.
“Everybody goes out to do their absolute utmost to do their best for the manager, the team and themselves but it wasn’t to be in previous years.
“But you can see this season, we have had times when we’ve had to dig deep. There is a lot of fight in that dressing room and it is positive.
“We are fifth now and it shows the fight in the squad. It shows we are prepared to fight for each other. You can’t buy that. It is in everyone. It rubs off on us from the manager.”