ARTICLES Match Previews

International Reds: The September Fixtures

Just like every Premier League season before the whole world turned upside down in March 2020, 3 games in we are met with the much loved and anticipated September international fixtures. A time for most nations to start their quest for World Cup or continental international glory, this international break often comes to the annoyance of club fans, as it throws a real road-block in a side’s league momentum.

The September international break sees many squads continue their qualification battle for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, after the Copa America and European Championships in the summer of 2021 momentarily stopped the focus on these highly anticipated qualification groups. Remember: only the side who finishes top of each group will qualify, with 2nd placed teams heading in to play-off rounds to determine who else qualifies (within the European groups).

As Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world, this often means that quite a significant portion of the squad attend their duties for their country. However, what is greatly significant this time round is due to UK Government COVID-19 travel rules, Premier League clubs have “reluctantly but unanimously” agreed that no player who would be travelling to a ‘red list’ country shall not be released from their clubs to play for their country. A ‘red list’ country is one that requires 10 days hotel quarantine upon arrival back in the UK.

(How a decision can be both reluctant but unanimous does slightly confuse me, but that’s getting off topic).

So, this does mean that a lot of South American Premier League players in particular will not be allowed to travel to and play for their country, something that Edinson Cavani in particular has already displayed his displeasure towards.

So, here is your round up of which Reds WILL be displaying their talents on the international stage next week:

Wales

Looking to get back to winning ways after getting knocked out of Euro 2020 in a 4-0 thumping against Denmark, midfielder Dylan Levitt will be once again wearing the dragon on his chest.

Wales have 3 upcoming fixtures over the next two weeks, as they first face Finland in an international friendly, before going head to head against Belarus and Estonia in an effort to climb the Group E table and over take the Czech Republic (who have played an extra game), in a bid to grab 2nd place as the qualification progresses.

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Fixture dates and times:

  • Finland v Wales (1st September, 17:00 BST) – Friendly
  • Belarus v Wales (5th September, 14:00 BST)
  • Wales v Estonia (8th September, 19:45 BST)

France

After a shock Euro 2020 exit, France will be determined to show the world once again just how good they really are, and have enlisted the help of Paul Pogba, Raphaël Varane & Anthony Martial from United’s ranks to prove this.

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France have 3 qualifiers to attend to this September, battling it out against Boznia and Hertzegovnia, Ukrane and Finland in a continuation of their race to finish top of Group D (which France currently control on 7 points). Judging by the internet’s ever-calm reaction, Anthony Martial can be considered a suprise inclusion in the French team, given his lack of form in recent months for United. However, unlike when Martial was a youngster, head coach Didier Deschamps has put his faith in him.

Fixture dates and times:

  • France v Bosnia and Hertzegovnia (1st September, 19:45 BST)
  • Ukrane v France (4th September, 19:45 BST)
  • France v Finland (7th September, 19:45 BST)

England

Always featuring a good number of United players in recent years, the England squad once again contains 4 of the Red’s finest, in Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Jadon Sancho & Jesse Lingard. In a bid to continue their perfect start to Group I, they will face Hungary, Andorra and Poland this september break, all of which are qualifiers.

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This September call up will come as a brilliant confidence boost to Jesse Lingard, who was left out of the Euro 2020 squad. Since then he had not played much competitive football for United, with only 9 minutes of professional football to his name this season so far, and on top of that he contracted COVID-19 a few weeks ago. So it is great to see that Gareth Southgate has retained his faith in the attacking midfielder, despite these issues.

Mason Greenwood was not called up to the squad, but more on that later.

Fixture dates and times:

  • Hungary v England (2nd September, 19:45 BST)
  • England v Andorra (5th September, 17:00 BST)
  • Poland v England (8th September, 19:45 BST)

Portugal

As is pretty standard these days, Bruno Fernandes is in the Portugal squad. However, he is not the only one, with former and now current Red Cristiano Ronaldo, who has just re-signed for the club, is also away in Lisbon. Currently sitting on top of Group A with 7 points (tied with Serbia, also on 7), Portgual will next face Ireland and Azerbaijan in their bid to secure World Cup qualification, and in between these two fixtures, they have a friendly against Qatar organised, that will be played in Hungary.

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Fixture dates and times:

  • Portugal v Ireland ( 1st September, 19:45 BST)
  • Qatar v Portugal ( 4th September, 17:00 BST) – Friendly
  • Azerbaijan v Portugal (7th September, 17:00 BST)

Spain

These days he is considered second choice behind Unai Simon, but David de Gea has been called up to the Spanish national team. Just like during Euro 2020, he is expected to spend their games on the bench unless Luis Enrique decides to change his usual starting formula, but none the less he will be involved in training and pushing to retain his starting place.

Spain are currently the headline act of Group B, sitting on top with 7 points, however 2nd placed Sweden are on 6 points and have played a game less. Interestingly, Spain play Sweden next, and after will play Georga and Kosovo.

Fixture dates and times:

  • Sweden v Spain (2nd September, 19:45 BST)
  • Spain v Georgia (5th September, 19:45 BST)
  • Kosovo v Spain (8th September, 19:45 BST)

Ivory Coast

The second round of World Cup qualifiers in Africa begins this week, and Ivory Coast have called up Eric Bailly to help represent them and fight for their place in Qatar next year. The Ivory Coast team will be facing off against Mozambique and Cameroon in the next week, and in their group only one team will progress, so these matches will be of particular importance to the Reds.

Fixture dates and times:

  • Mozambique v Ivory Coast (3rd September, 14:00 BST)
  • Ivory Coast v Cameroon ( 6th September, 20:00 BST)

Sweden

Now captain of his international team, Victor Lindelof will be leading the line for Sweden. Sweden have three fixtures lined up for this international break, playing Spain, Uzbekistan (in a friendly) and Greece. They are currently second in their group, but have played a game less than Spain, who are top. This group is a great opportunity for Sweden to once again establish them as one of Europe’s top international sides.

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Fixture dates and times:

  • Sweden v Spain (2nd September, 19:45 BST)
  • Sweden v Uzbekistan (5th September, 14:00 BST)
  • Greece v Sweden (8th September, 19:45 BST)

Noticable absentees

There are quite a few United players who are absentees from representing their country this September. Mason Greenwood was not called up to the England squad despite his fantastic form, however Southgate has mentioned that Greenwood will be a consideration for future squads for sure. Marcus Rashford was also not called up to represent England due to his rehabilitation after surgury on his shoulder has kept him sidelined in recent weeks.

Someone who has been a major talking point has been Donny van de Beek, who has not been called up to the Netherlands squad. Louis Van Gaal (head coach) has told the media that in order for Donny to be called up once again, he must start playing more often internationally. Scott McTominay is another one who will not be playing in the next two weeks, as he has just undergone surgury on his groin. Ivorian wonderkid Amad has also recently sustained an injury that blocked a deadline day loan move to Feyenoord, and he will be out for approximately six weeks.

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Finally, we have three South Americans who are not being called up due to problems with quarantine rules in the UK. These three are Edinson Cavani (Uruguay), Fred & Alex Telles (Brazil), although the latter would also have most likely not have been called up anyway due to injury. Although it is unfortunate that these players will not get to represent their countries, this will be an advantage for United, who will see this as a good opporunity to keep the players training in Manchester.

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