Manchester United might need another of their traditionally strong finishes if they cannot remedy their habit of making sluggish starts.
And the Premier League fixture computer has thrown down an almighty early challenge to the Reds to see if their away form has been repaired from last season.
United’s performances away from Old Trafford last term were the Achilles heel that could have spoiled the record 19th title party.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions won only 25 points from a possible 57 on their travels, won only five league matches away from Old Trafford all term and didn’t win one until their fifth attempt of last season.
August and September present a tough test as to whether United can shed their travel sickness.
Liam Bradford is the presenter of Red Wednesday on Radio Manchester, is co-editor of the Red News fanzine and is an IMUSA spokesman.
The United fanatic says it is going to be a key start for the Reds as they open their defence of the Premier League crown.
“So often United struggle at the start of a season. They get out of the traps so slowly normally,” Liam told MEN Sport.
“It is a heck of a start. We won at West Brom on new year’s day last season but only just. I’d rather be going to the highest ground above sea level in August than the depths of winter but the Hawthorns is still a hard place to go.
“I think that opener could be a significant one for the Reds. Get an away win under our belts on the first weekend and all the problems from last season might just disappear.
“It would then set us up for the two Old Trafford matches following against Spurs and Arsenal. We’d be flying then.
“Lose that first one and the away form will be under scrutiny again and we’d be on the back foot.
“There are going to be a number of changes to United’s squad this season so with integrating new faces it is imperative you start well. But it is a toughie.
“In that opening period are away matches at Bolton, Stoke, Liverpool and Everton after the Hawthorns. That will really ask some questions.
“The plus side is our run-in. I always look at the final matches and, apart from the derby at Eastlands at the end of April which could be an absolutely huge game, United’s final games look, on paper, among the easiest I can recall for a long while.
“Blackburn, QPR, Wigan, Villa, Everton, City, Swansea and Sunderland is as good as it could possibly get.
“You’d be looking for 21 points from 24 from that.”
Fergie has been handed the huge filip of a kind run of games following the six Champions League group stage matches.
Every single Euro game this autumn and early winter is followed by a home match at Old Trafford.
“Sir Alex Ferguson has been justified in moaning about some of the games following European matches in seasons past, but this is perfect,” added Liam.
“I think it could be an absolutely huge bonus for United.
“When you’ve travelled away there is often a knock-on adverse affect, but to not have to then get back on the road again in the Premier League immediately after is great for avoiding fatigue.
“Two of the league matches after European midweek games are big ones against Chelsea and City but they’ll have had Champions League games as well.
“For the first time in a while I have to say the fixture list is weighted in United’s favour.”