Manchester United’s return to action took a huge step forward yesterday evening when results of the second round of coronavirus testing revealed just two new cases across all Premier League clubs.
996 players and staff were tested on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – 248 more than in the first batch – with just one positive result found in two different clubs.
The news means that clubs are expected to get the green light to move to step two of training protocols when the 20 clubs meet for a Wednesday conference call.
The government is expected to have produced guidelines for this second stage, which is expected to include player contact, in time for that Wednesday meeting.
If full contact training can go ahead from as early Thursday, clubs will only have two weeks’ preparation time if they are to meet the original 12th June target date for a return to action. It is now looking more likely that this will be pushed back by around a week. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos revealed in an interview this week that they had been told they would play their first game on June 20th.
When the Red Devils do return to action, it is now looking more than likely that it will not be at neutral venues as the government had previously demanded. Many clubs are very resistant to the idea, especially given The Telegraph’s claim that each club could lose up to £70 million in sponsorship revenue if the season isn’t completed at their own grounds.
‘Some clubs provide advertising space or commercial benefits to their sponsors on a rota basis, meaning that any move away from that club’s home stadium would almost certainly prevent those agreements from being fulfilled’ the outlet notes.
‘Clubs face an estimated commercial loss of up to £70 million if matches [are] played in neutral grounds.’
Having already lost around £26 million in broadcasting revenue due to the season’s postponement, clubs can ill-afford to lose any more.
With the Liga Portuguesa starting up again on 3rd June and Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A both resuming on the weekend of 12th – 14th June, there must now be every chance that England’s top flight will also start within the next three and a half weeks.
United’s first game is likely to be a tough away fixture at Spurs, where fans could see Bruno Fernandes line up alongside Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford for the first time.
United might have to finish their Premier League season at neutral grounds as the authorities try to ensure player safety. How much do you know about those neither-home-nor-away games the Red Devils have played in the past? Take our quiz below to find out.