10 Key Fixtures for Manchester United in the 2014/15 Season

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJune 18, 2014

10 Key Fixtures for Manchester United in the 2014/15 Season

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    Louis van Gaal couldn't have asked for a better start to life as Manchester United manager.

    Last season, David Moyes was handed early games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

    His successor has been given games against Swansea, Sunderland, Burnley, QPR and Leicester to kick off his Old Trafford career.

    But while their start to the season is comfortable, the run-in is anything but. United face games against Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Arsenal in the final nine games of the season.

    Here's a list of 10 games that could shape United's season. Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree and add your own.

Swansea at Home

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    When David Moyes discovered his first five outings as Manchester United manager included games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, he hinted at a Premier League conspiracy.

    His successor Louis van Gaal has no such worries. 

    A comfortable introduction to the Premier League for the Dutchman starts with Swansea's visit to Old Trafford on the opening day of the season.

    It's a reverse of United's opening fixture last season when Moyes got his reign off to the perfect start with a 4-1 win at the Liberty Stadium.

Sunderland Away

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    After facing Swansea at Old Trafford, United travel to the Stadium of Light to play Sunderland for the second game of the season.

    Sunderland and Gus Poyet pulled off a great escape to avoid relegation last season. They all but sealed their survival with a win at Old Trafford.

    But a trip to the Stadium of Light is still a game United and Van Gaal will expect to win. 

    Six points from the first two games will make Van Gaal very comfortable very quickly in his new job.

Burnley Away

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    United travelled to Burnley as champions in August 2009. But Robbie Blake's first-half volley, and Michael Carrick's missed penalty, meant they left with nothing.

    Turf Moor will be bouncing when United visit on August 30. But, just like Swansea at home and Sunderland away, it's a game they should be winning.

    They'll have to cope with the drive and energy of a team who will still be flying after winning promotion from the Championship last season.

    But it's a chance for United to win their third game on the bounce and take maximum points from the first three games.

Chelsea Home

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    After games against Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley, United play QPR at home, Leicester away and West Ham at home.

    It should give United a realistic chance of taking a maximum 18 points from their first six games.

    Everton at Old Trafford on October 4 will be a test for Louis van Gaal's team. But it will be Chelsea's visit on October 25 that will show what kind of level United are competing at.

    Win that, and they'll be rightly talked about as genuine title challengers. 

    Van Gaal will be glad he has time and games to let his new team gel, and to get his ideas across, before coming up against one of the top four.

Manchester City Away

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    The first Manchester derby of the season has been pencilled in for November 1 at the Etihad Stadium.

    United and David Moyes were humiliated at City last season. Coming so early on, it set the tone for the season and they never recovered.

    Louis van Gaal has been afforded more time before his first derby than Moyes was last season. Better organised and well-drilled, United should give a better account of themselves next season.

    The travelling fans will certainly hope so.

Liverpool Away

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    United's start to the season is comfortable. But their run-in is much tougher.

    It begins against Liverpool at Anfield on March 21. And it kicks off a run of nine games at the end of the season during which United play Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Arsenal.

    United's 1-0 defeat at Anfield last season contributed to their poor start to the campaign. Daniel Sturridge's header was the only goal of the game.

Manchester City Home

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    United haven't beaten Manchester City at Old Trafford since Wayne Rooney's volley earned a 2-1 win in 2011.

    Since then they've been hammered 6-1. But last season they arguably put in an even more impotent performance.

    City's 3-0 win in March was one of David Moyes' lowest days as United manager. And there were more than just a few. A month later he'd been sacked.

    The second derby of next season on April 11, six games before the end of the campaign, could have a bearing on where the title ends up.

Chelsea Away

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    United's record against the top clubs was atrocious last season.

    And that will have to change under Louis van Gaal if United hope to challenge for the title next season. 

    David Moyes didn't have a record of winning big games when he took over at Old Trafford. But that's not a criticism that can be levelled at Van Gaal.

    Chelsea beat both Liverpool and Manchester City home and away last season. And a trip to Stamford Bridge during the run-in will be a tough task, even for the Dutchman.

Arsenal Home

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    Arsenal was the one team in the top four that United had any joy against last season.

    Robin van Persie's header against his former club gave them a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, while they drew 0-0 at the Emirates in the second half of the season.

    Arsene Wenger takes his team to Old Trafford for the penultimate game of next season. 

    The Frenchman hasn't got a good recent record at United's home. Arsenal haven't won at Old Trafford since Emmanuel Adebayor's late goal earned them a 1-0 win in September 2006.

Hull Away

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    Louis van Gaal and United will certainly hope their game at the KC Stadium on May 24 turns out to be a key game.

    If the title is on the line on the final day of the season, United would prefer to be at home. But a trip to Hull isn't particularly daunting.

    If United needed three points from their final game of the season, they will fancy their chances against Steve Bruce's side.