Reserves kick off new campaign with Villa rematch
Posted by nickogs20 on July 15, 2010
The fixtures for the revamped FA Premier Reserve League have been released and United will get their campaign underway with a rematch against their beaten opponents in last season’s national play-off, Aston Villa.
The two sides met back in May in a thrilling season finale at Old Trafford, the Reds eventually triumphing on penalties after a tumultuous 3-3 draw. The Midlanders will have an early chance for revenge when they make the trip north on September 16, although the make-up of both sides is likely to differ significantly to the last encounter between the two clubs.
As we exclusively revealed three weeks ago, the Premier League’s second string competition has had a significant facelift over the summer, with the old North/South split being replaced by a more nationwide format. Teams will still compete in regionalised groups, but as well as playing the other teams in their group twice, each club will also play every other side in the competition once, either home or away.
The groups are made up as follows:
Northern Group A: Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic.
Northern Group B: Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Everton, Liverpool, Sunderland.
Southern Group: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A slightly extended season and the chance to play against relatively unfamiliar southern opposition are the main plus points of the new changes, the latter being particularly appealing to Reserves boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “We’re split into three groups now and we manage to play all the teams, which will be great,” he told ManUtd.com. “It’ll be a good experience for the players to come up against Arsenal, Chelsea, Villa… all those teams.”
Referring to previous seasons in which United have often ended up meeting their northern neighbours on numerous occasions over the course of a single campaign, the Norwegian added: “Sometimes you can grow stale by playing against the same teams three or four times a season, as we can in the league and cups, and it’s always good to get different experiences and test themselves against different teams.”
Solskjaer’s side won’t have to wait long to test themselves against these different teams, with their first two home games – to be hosted again this season at Altrincham FC’s Moss Lane ground – coming against Aston Villa and Arsenal, before trips to the Midlands to face Wolves and West Brom sandwich a more familiar meeting with Bolton.
The Premier League have passed new rules that allow clubs to stage matches behind closed doors at training grounds, but the only United game set to be affected by that is the trip to West Ham in April. On the flipside, Solskjaer’s young charges are currently scheduled to get three opportunities to play at Premier League games, with their trips to West Brom (November 11), Newcastle (February 22) and Blackpool (March 9) set to be hosted at the Hawthorns, St James’ Park and Bloomfield Road respectively.
Other highlights on the calendar include reserve derbies on November 23 (away) and February 17 (home), the visit of Chelsea on December 16th and a late-season visit to Liverpool on March 22. Manchester City have also confirmed on their website that they’ll face United in the Manchester Senior Cup on August 24. The fixture list is very much subject to change, especially at the mercy of the British winter, but you can view the full provisional reserves schedule here.