A belting opener and stand-out month as fixtures are released but Leeds United have been here before
THERE were not many sobering low points upon Leeds United’s brilliant Premier League return and ninth-placed finish.
But the long-awaited trip to the arch enemy Manchester United at Old Trafford was definitely one of them, a game that created little Festive cheer four days before Christmas.
There was more to the outcome than met the eye but Leeds were the only ones bearing gifts as Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites were hit for six by their arch enemy in the first league fixture between the two clubs for 16 and a half years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side then found Bielsa’s men a rather different proposition four months later in a goalless draw at Elland Road but Leeds United against Manchester United at Old Trafford feels like unfinished business.
There’s a score to settle, an extra edge to one of the fiercest rivalries in English football.
So even Whites CEO Angus Kinnear was left hailing the Premier League’s sense of humour as the Red Devils and Whites rematch was delivered on the very first day as the 2021-22 Premier League fixtures were unveiled.
The opening day clash at Manchester United is the undoubted highlight, in addition to a devilishly difficult December - although the Whites have been here before.
Back when United’s fixtures for their Premier League return were unveiled last August, all eyes were immediately drawn to the opening day fixture at defending champions Liverpool.
Then, upon deeper inspection, there were quizzical looks when it came to assessing April as Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites were handed a trip to Manchester City followed by back-to-back home games against Liverpool and Manchester United.
But this time around, December is the month to really raise the eyebrows with a list of fixtures that makes the April offering seem comparatively tame.
The month will begin with a home clash against newly-promoted Brentford but thereafter Leeds will face four of the division’s so called ‘Big Six’ in succession and three of last season’s top four.
First comes a chance to settle another score at Champions League winners Chelsea who condemned Leeds to a 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge last season and the clash at the Blues is followed by a midweek visit to defending champions Manchester City. The two Champions League finalists in a row.
Arsenal will then arrive at Elland Road the following weekend before a true Boxing Day feast at Liverpool.
Even then, the month hardly tails off in limp fashion with the Whites ending 2021 at home to more recent rivals Aston Villa two days later before hosting Burnley on New Year’s Day.
As far as the other big dates are concerned, the Elland Road clash against the Red Devils falls on Saturday, February 19 as the first instalment of two back to back big ones completed by the visit of Tottenham.
Historic rivals Chelsea face their trip to Leeds on Saturday, April 16 as part of a month that ends with a home clash against City and is followed by a trip to Arsenal.
Liverpool, meanwhile, will be the season’s second visitors to Elland Road in United’s fourth game of the 2021-22 campaign over the weekend of Saturday, September 11.
The Reds date comes on the back of an away clash at Burnley which proceeds United’s first home game against Everton and the fixture against you know who on the opening day.
The contest looks certain to be televised and broadcast selections for the month of August will be announced by Monday, June 21.
Quite whether Whites fans will be allowed into Old Trafford in the country’s ongoing battle against coronavirus remains to be seen although the Premier League say they will work closely with the Government for an ambition to have full stadiums, including away supporters, for the first weekend of the season.
Leeds United’s fans were sorely missed when the Whites were blitzed 6-2 at Old Trafford last December and Whites CEO Angus Kinnear says Leeds and Bielsa will already be eyeing the fixture as a quick retrieval mission.
“It proves that the fixture computer is definitely a myth and that someone at Premier League HQ has a sense of humour,” said Kinnear to BBC Radio Leeds.
“But it’s a great game to start with.
“It’s one of the few performances last season where we didn’t do ourselves justice so I am sure Marcelo and the boys are going to be delighted to have that up as a first crack and put that right.”
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Thank you Laura Collins