A beacon of hope is emerging in Manchester. For the first time in a decade, the Red Devils look to be operating like a big boy club again.

The owners are selling up, their disinterested protagonist is out of the door, and they’re blessed with a manager who may well lead them to the promised land once more.

There’s still a long way to go, however, and inconsistency will continue to be a feature of United’s play during Erik ten Hag’s first season at the club. Nevertheless, the Dutchman mitigated a tumultuous start to leave the Red Devils in a promising position heading into the World Cup break.

They’ve scored statement victories over Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, and are well in contention for a top-four spot. Ten Hag’s side currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, three points adrift of Spurs, who have played a game more, in fourth.

United will be looking for a bright start after Christmas to regain their momentum, and here’s who they’ll be playing once the Premier League makes its return.

United’s first game after the World Cup arrives the day after Boxing Day as Nottingham Forest make the trip north to Old Trafford for a 20:00 kick-off.

On paper, this is a game United will be expected to win, but Forest had improved considerably before the break and it remains to be seen how the World Cup will impact some of Ten Hag’s players. It’s likely that those who enjoy a deep run in Qatar will not play this game.

A tricky encounter awaits the Red Devils on New Year’s Eve as Julen Lopetegui takes charge of his first Premier League game at Molineux as Wolves manager. The place will be rocking in what’s usually a tough place to go and win.

Wolves will almost certainly improve under the Spaniard and United mustn’t get caught cold as they did against Unai Emery’s Aston Villa in November.

Gary O’Neil was rewarded for his work as Bournemouth’s interim manager by signing an 18-month deal with the club. O’Neil takes his Cherries to Old Trafford for United’s first game of the new year.

While Bournemouth have surprised almost everybody this season in that they’ve actually looked competent under O’Neil, this is a game Ten Hag’s men will be expected to win.

Defeat in the first Manchester derby of the season was chastening. Manchester City put on a clinic at the Etihad in a 6-3 thumping.

United were simply overwhelmed by the superior side and supporters will be hoping for a much-improved performance in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils haven’t beaten their noisy neighbours in front of fans at home in the Premier League since 2015.

Man City’s next four league games

Liverpool’s next four league games

Chelsea’s next four league games

Credit: 90min.com

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