Manchester United's season may be decided by four key games
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 22/09/16 11:49pm
Manchester United play four successive games in three competitions in October that may decide the success of Jose Mourinho's first season at the club.
United beat Northampton Town 3-1 in the EFL Cup third round on Wednesday night to end a run of three straight defeats for the club.
However, after a trio of home clashes against champions Leicester, live on Sky Sports 1, and bottom-of-the-table Stoke in the league, as well as Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League, Mourinho's side face a stern examination of their credentials following the international break.
And if things do not go according to plan for Mourinho's side across that crucial nine-day period, United could find themselves effectively out of three competitions after just two months of the season.
October 17: Liverpool (a)
The first of those four daunting fixtures comes at Anfield on Monday Night Football, when the atmosphere is sure to be red hot.
Liverpool have made an impressive start to the campaign, while the Reds - who beat United the last time the two teams met at Anfield in the Europa League in March - have also lost just once at home in the league since Jurgen Klopp became manager.
However, that defeat did come against Louis van Gaal's United in January, and what better way to kick off this tricky-looking run of games than by getting one over on their fierce rivals?
Oct 20: Fenerbahce (h)
United made a disappointing start to their Europa League campaign after losing their opening Group A encounter against Feyenoord in Rotterdam earlier this month.
The Red Devils take on Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on matchday two before crucial back-to-back matches with Fenerbahce that will go a long way in determining if they progress from the group.
And the first of those testing contests comes at the Theatre of Dreams only three days after the trip to Anfield, scheduling that may very well decide just how strong a line-up Mourinho fields against the Turks.
October 23: Chelsea (a)
Coming hot on the heels of Fenerbahce is a reunion for Mourinho at his old stamping ground Stamford Bridge as United play Chelsea in a Super Sunday fixture that always carries huge significance.
However, this season's clash is sure to be even more fiercely contested than usual given that it will be the first time the Portuguese has returned to west London since leaving the club in December.
And with United already trailing leaders Manchester City by six points in the Premier League, they cannot afford any more slips-ups at a ground where success is usually hard to come by.
October 25: Man City (h)
Just two days later and focus switches to the EFL Cup as United, live on Sky Sports, entertain a City team who have won every competitive match under new manager Pep Guardiola.
The city rivals have already faced each other at Old Trafford in the league this season, with the visitors winning that one 2-1.
And with Guardiola sure to field a strong line-up in this encounter, United can expect another testing challenge in the immediate aftermath of an energy-sapping contest at the Bridge.
In fact, there is even the possibility of United ending this eight-day run of fixtures having been eliminated from the EFL Cup, struggling to stay in Europe and virtually out of the title race…