Why Man United could face City in the season opener but not play a ‘ghost match’ until December


MANCHESTER UNITED could face its neighbors and bitter rivals Manchester City in the opening week of the season.

But they would only be paired up as a “ghost game” that wouldn’t happen until… December.


Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will want his European fighters to have a decent break before the season resumesCrédits: Getty Images – Getty
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer desperately wants to end the season with Europa League silverwareCrédits: Getty Images – Getty

Prem meetings for the next quarter are expected to be announced on Friday, August 21.

The first game boffins are working hard to consolidate 380 matches in an eight month window while also being up to date with FA Cup, Carabao Cup, Europe and World dates.

Club bosses agreed last month that the new campaign would start on the weekend of September 12.

But the two Manchester giants will be banned from playing on any date this weekend if they extend their delayed European campaigns.

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Fifa rules impose a 30-day rest period between the last club game of this season and the first of the next term.

Likewise, United won’t play the opening weekend if they beat Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals on Sunday.

If City beat Lyon in the Champions League quarter-final on Saturday, that means they will play their semi-final against Barcelona or Bayern on Wednesday August 19.

Even if Pep Guardiola’s men missed a place in the Lisbon final, the 30-day rule means they could not start the 2020-21 season until September 16.


It would be pushed back to September 20 if they reached the final game for European clubs.

And if those results are the result of this weekend’s games, the opening weekend “ghost” match will likely take place.

By making Manchester clubs nominal opponents of the first weekend – knowing that the games will not take place – the Prem chiefs can ensure that the other 18 clubs can all play.

If City and United weren’t paired, and due to playing other teams, that would mean these two teams would be out on the first weekend and only eight matches would be played.

That would mean two clubs would be one game late at the start of a campaign that could still be disrupted by a second wave of Covid-19.


Normally, Prem bosses want teams to “catch up” on missing matches as soon as possible.

But with the Champions League group stages taking place for six of eight consecutive weeks between October 20 and December 9, on either side of the November international break, the late game is unlikely to be rescheduled until. the last month of the year.

The extra time both clubs will get is the second boost ahead of the new campaign.

As SunSport reported, Premier League clubs are to share an additional £ 170million for this season – after clubs delayed payment of the Covid-19 TV rebate.

Domestic and overseas broadcasters have forced Prem clubs to agree to a refund of around £ 330million for the three-month shutdown.

This was despite the League resuming in June and its completion last month.

It was originally predicted that £ 170million would have to be paid out of this season’s forecast income, a blow to clubs due to start the next term behind closed doors.

While the money has yet to be paid, all 20 clubs voted not to get any money back for this term.

Instead, refunds will now be paid over the next two seasons.

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