Thu. Jun 4th, 2020

Man Utd

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Man United reveal Premier League and Europa League plans to complete season

3 min read

Ed Woodward says Manchester United are ‘optimistic’ about restarting the Premier League season in June and anticipates an August conclusion to the Europa League.

United are unbeaten in their last 11 games and fifth in the Premier League table with nine fixtures left – all to be played behind closed doors if the season resumes next month.

The club face Norwich City away in the FA Cup quarter-final and are all but through to the last eight of the Europa League, having vanquished LASK Linz 5-0 in their round-of-16 first leg.

Executive vice-chairman Woodward clarified the Premier League is still planning to complete the 2020-21 season by May of next year, despite the three-month disruption to the current campaign caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Woodward is ‘firmly optimistic’ about United becoming a credible force again as they attempt to secure two trophies when the run-in resumes.

“While it is too soon to know with any certainty if, or when, these measures can fully be relaxed, we are optimistic that it will soon be possible to resume playing football,” Woodward said. “Our men’s first team has begun a phased return to training this week, with rigorous medical protocols in place to manage risks.

“Subject to government and Premier League shareholder approval, including input from medical staff and players, we anticipate domestic games could restart again in June. All indications from Uefa are that the culmination of the Europa League could be during August.

“We remain in constant dialogue with the Premier League, the FA and Uefa about the next steps towards returning to play, while continuing to protect the health of our players, staff and the wider public.”

The Bundesliga staged a successful restart at the weekend and it is expected the Italian and Spanish leagues will resume in June. Woodward cited the Bundesliga’s resumption as cause for optimism in England.

“We are encouraged by the return of the German Bundesliga, which was the first major European league to restart last weekend,” he added. “With the successful completion of nine matches, all played behind closed doors.

“While no one in the football industry enjoys seeing football without fans in the stadiums, the TV audiences attracted to the German matches demonstrates the strong pent-up demand for live football after a two-month absence.

“Players have also returned to training in Spain, Italy, Portugal and several other European countries, all with the aim of completing the 2019-20 season, so there is clear momentum behind efforts to get football going again across Europe’s major leagues. All in all, as many as 32 countries are expected to restart domestic leagues by the end of June.

“As in Germany and elsewhere, it is now inevitable that our matches will initially be played behind closed doors when the season resumes. This is as disappointing for us as it is for our fans, but we hope it will allow the Men’s first team to complete all of its competitions in the 2019-20 season by the end of August, and to start next season in time to target completion of next season still in May 2021.

“While there are still many uncertainties to resolve, we are looking forward to Ole and the team returning to the pitch soon to defend the strong momentum that they achieved with their 11-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup immediately before the season was suspended in mid-March.”

Woodward spoke at length about the impact of COVID-19 on United
Woodward spoke at length about the impact of COVID-19 on United

Woodward reiterated it will not be ‘business as usual’ for football clubs for the foreseeable future but believes United are built on a ‘solid foundation’ to weather the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Woodward stressed football can help ‘restore morale’.

He said: “We remain firmly optimistic about the long-term prospects for the club and for our exciting, young team once we have worked our way through what is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary and testing periods in the 142-year history of Manchester United. This club is built on resilience in the face of adversity and those qualities are being proven once again now.”

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