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United fixture chaos spared by City FA Cup win

Manchester United have been handed a huge favour by rivals Man City, with Pep Guardiola’s FA Cup win saving the Red Devils from a summer of fixture chaos.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finished sixth in the Premier League and would have faced a Europa League qualifier on July 25 and Aug. 1 if City had lost to Watford at Wembley on Saturday. But City cruised to a 6-0 victory with goals from David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus (2) and Raheem Sterling (2).

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The early start to the season would have played havoc with a preseason schedule that was already in place, including friendlies in Australia, Singapore, China and Cardiff.

But now United will go direct to the group-stage draw (the place reserved for the FA Cup winners, which City do not need). Instead it will be Wolves who start their season in July, with the berth in the Europa League second qualifying going to seventh in the Premier League. 

Wolves will now have to play on six consecutive Thursdays — in the second qualifying round, third qualifying round and playoff round — to make it into the draw for the group stage on Aug. 30. The Premier League season begins on the weekend on Aug. 10.

Wolves have already confirmed their participation in the Asia Trophy, and will play two games in China on July 17 and 20. However, as yet they have no fixtures in place after these dates so would be clear for the Europa League qualifiers. 

United play Tottenham in Shanghai on July 25 — the same day as the Europa League second qualifying round first leg — and AC Milan in Cardiff on Aug. 3.

Both these games would have been under threat had United had to play in the Europa League that week. But sources told ESPN FC that contingency plans were in place with options including fulfilling friendlies with a reserve team or moving the dates and venues of games.

Sources have also told ESPN FC that United have also agreed a deal with Kristiansund — Solskjaer’s hometown team — to play an additional friendly in Oslo on July 30. However, the club had been forced to delay the announcement until after their Europa League schedule was clear.

The squad are due to report back at Carrington for the start of preseason training on July 1 before flying to Australia on July 7. They are due to play Perth Glory in Perth on July 13 before a game against Leeds United, also in Perth, on July 17. From there, United fly to Singapore to play Inter Milan on July 20.

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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