London: New manager David Moyes has criticised the early fixtures Manchester United have been handed at the start of the season, hinting it is a deliberate ploy by the Premier League to give them a tough opening.
The champions travel to Swansea City on Saturday for their first match of the new campaign but among their next four games the champions host Chelsea and travel to Manchester City and Liverpool.
“I think it’s the hardest start for 20 years that Manchester United have had,” said Moyes who took over in the close season following Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
“I hope it’s not because Manchester United won the league quite comfortably last year that the fixtures have been made much more difficult,” Moyes said on Thursday.
“I find it hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, that’s for sure.”
Richard Scudamore, meanwhile, has hit back at Moyes and rejected any claims of a controversy over Manchester United’s difficult start to the Premier League season.
Scudamore said the new United manager accepted their explanation after conversations in June, when the dates were first unveiled, and claims he has no grounds to criticise. He said: “It was a bit of a surprise to us yesterday. I was with him and when the fixture list originally came out he had a moan.
“We had a long conversation about it, he rang, and I assured him the way it was done and everything else. As we always do we parted as friends.
“And then all of a sudden, what seems like two months on, yesterday we were all at a launch event and he suddenly ran the line again and you’ve seen it run big on the back pages of the papers today”.
Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, is in line to make his hotly anticipated return for Moyes’ first competitive game in charge of Manchester United. The England striker flew with the rest of the United squad to South Wales on Friday and is expected to be named among the substitutes for the champions’ opening match against Swansea City.
Both sides have had competitive action in recent weeks. United beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 in the Community Shield on Sunday while Swansea defeated Swedish club Malmo in a two-legged Europa League qualifier.
Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale, who is wanted by Real Madrid, will not play at promoted Crystal Palace on Sunday after suffering a series of niggling injuries that have prevented him taking a full part in pre-season.
Luis Suarez will miss Liverpool’s home match with Stoke City on Saturday because he is still serving a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last season.
Arsenal, who finished one place behind London rivals Chelsea in third spot last season, could be without midfield pair Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta when they entertain Aston Villa at The Emirates on Saturday.