When Manchester United travels to face Manchester City in the Premier League this weekend, there will be no place for excuses. Erik ten Hag’s side will have been out of action for 17 days and have not played in 28 days.
Matches after an international break might be slow burners at times, but it is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to a game of this magnitude that demands the highest degree of intensity. United’s performance against City on Sunday will set the tone for a hectic month in which they will play nine games and face the grueling test of playing two games each week until the World Cup.
This is a schedule that will put Ten Hag’s squad to the test, with a pool of fringe players guaranteed to receive a look in the coming weeks due to the many contests and commitments. United will need to go with their strongest available lineup for the match at the Etihad, and barring a surprise call, it appears like Ten Hag already has an XI in mind based on recent performances.
David de Gea and Jadon Sancho will be available to play this weekend after missing recent international matches for their respective countries, while a slew of other players has returned unhurt.
Brazil plays Tunisia on Tuesday night, so Antony and Casemiro have one more barrier to pass before returning to Carrington, while Lisandro Martinez will play for Argentina against Jamaica in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
It means the trio will have to sprint back to Manchester in time for training this week, but with United not playing until Sunday, there is little fear about their availability, especially because they may participate in sessions on Friday and Saturday prior.
Scott McTominay is expected to play for Scotland against Ukraine in Poland on Tuesday night, while Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes will both be seeking to complete Portugal’s Nations League campaign on a high against Spain tonight.
Cristiano Ronaldo struggled in last week’s rout of Czechia. But he is not even guaranteed a start for United this weekend if Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial return from injury in time.
In other news, Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia, and Christian Eriksen have all completed international duty without incident. Luke Shaw, who was not expected to start against Manchester City, also returned injury-free after a good performance for England.
The same cannot be said for club captain Harry Maguire, who not only conceded a penalty and threw away the ball for Germany’s second goal but was also spotted limping through Wembley after the game.
Ten Hag has had nearly two weeks since their previous encounter to properly plot his strategy against Manchester City this Saturday. With five days to go, he should already know which team he wants to start at the Etihad on Sunday, and five of his starters have already reported back totally fit.