Following the postponement of this weekend’s English football calendar, Manchester United moved fast to begin conversations about their travel to Moldova next week, with confirmation on Friday night that the Europa League group game will take place.
Football is an outlier in terms of sport this weekend, with the game being canceled as a token of respect following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. On Sunday, United was scheduled to fly to London to face Crystal Palace.
They will now have a free weekend before the long travel to Chisinau next week for a game against Sheriff Tiraspol, which has taken on added importance following the first round of Europa League matchups.
Real Sociedad defeated Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford on Thursday night, while Sheriff defeated Omonia Nicosia 3-0 in Cyprus. Erik ten Hag’s team should breeze through this group, but if they falter, it will be the Moldovans who will put pressure on them.
Ten Hag’s approach to this game may be influenced by what occurs with the football schedule next week. At the present, there is only speculation surrounding that schedule, with the burial date still to be verified and policing difficulties unresolved.
If all of those games are canceled, United will be without a Premier League match from September 4 until October 2, when they visit the Etihad for the opening derby of the season.
There will be an international break, but that is a long period without a league match, and there is a risk that Ten Hag’s strongest XI would lose rhythm and momentum. So, whether or not he plays against Leeds the following Sunday will almost probably influence how he approaches next week’s game.
If that game goes ahead, significant changes are anticipated, possibly even more than the six against Real Sociedad last week, given the long flight to Moldova. Given their struggles last week, Casemiro and Cristiano Ronaldo may be given another chance.
However, if this is United’s only game before the derby, Ten Hag may be tempted to select his strongest XI, giving them another run-out before the big game. Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane could start in a stronger defense.
It is also possible that Scott McTominay may start ahead of Casemiro, with Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes reuniting in midfield. Ten Hag may be interested in playing Marcus Rashford after leaving him out last Thursday, especially as the attacker is unlikely to be included in England’s team for this international break.
After their opening-day defeat, United’s trip to Moldova has already become more crucial. Whether it occurs three days before the game against Leeds, or whether it occurs more than two weeks before the next league, could have an impact on the type of side Ten Hag selects.