Football: United facing marathon fixture list

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED could end up playing an unprecedented 77 games next season if they go all the way in the knock-out competitions and play the maximum four replays in the FA Cup. Even if United fall at the first hurdle in the cups, they would still play a minimum of 51 matches.

Last season United played 13 European games, but they face 17 if they are to reach next season's final. They will play another four games if they participate in the World Team Championship between January 5 to 14. They also play in the European Super Cup against Lazio in Monaco on August 27 and the Toyota Cup against Palmeiras in Tokyo on 30 November.

United already have to rearrange their Premiership home game against Newcastle on August 28 because it clashes with the European Super Cup. In the fixtures released today, runners-up Arsenal open against Leicester at home followed by matches at Derby and Sunderland. On August 21 they face Manchester United at Highbury. Chelsea open with a tough test at home to Sunderland on the first day followed by a journey to Bradford, who are back in the top flight for the first time since 1922.

The former England manager Graham Taylor will come face to face with his Norwegian nemesis Egil Olsen, when Watford tackle Wimbledon on their return to the top flight. Olsen's Norway team effectively ended Taylor's hopes of leading England to the 1994 World Cup in America with a 2-0 win in Oslo.

Ipswich face a testing opening to their First Division campaign, but their manager, George Burley, expected nothing less from a league which gets stronger every year.

The Suffolk club were defeated in the play-off semi-finals for the third successive season and must face relegated Nottingham Forest, then Bolton and Sheffield United in three of their first four games.

Manchester City will be aiming to start their first season back in the First Division with a win over Wolves at home.

Cheltenham begin life in the Third Division with the visit of Rochdale for their first-ever League game. Carlisle, who were all but relegated until the very end of last season, aim to improve at home to play-off runners-up Leyton Orient.