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Van Gaal gets Swansea start and easy run to October

ESPN staff
June 18, 2014 « 'England at their best for 15 years' | Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »
Manchester United begin against Swansea © PA Photos
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Louis van Gaal has been handed what will be considered an easy start to his reign as Manchester United manager, kicking off the Premier League season against Swansea at Old Trafford on August 16.

Fixtures released on Wednesday - before broadcasters have picked the initial tranche of live games - give the Dutchman's new side until the first weekend of October before they face opposition from the top half of last season's table. Following the opening fixture against Swansea, United face Sunderland, Burnley, Queens Park Rangers, Leicester and West Ham, before meeting Everton at home on October 4.

United's opening fixtures under Van Gaal compare favourably to last season's under former manager David Moyes. The Scot began his ill-fated stint in charge with a 4-1 victory away to Swansea on the opening day, but then faced Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in his next four games.

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After meeting Everton on October 4, Van Gaal will take United to West Brom before facing his first difficult run of games, welcoming Chelsea to Old Trafford on October 25, before travelling across town to the Etihad Stadium to face rivals Manchester City.

And if Van Gaal returns United to the race for honours next season, his team will face United old boy Steve Bruce in the last game of the season, away to Hull on May 24, with last season's defeated FA Cup finalists meeting Tottenham on the penultimate weekend.

Cesc Fabregas will begin life as a Chelsea player away to promoted Burnley, before facing Leicester at Stamford Bridge and Everton at Goodison Park. But his attention will be on two dates - October 4, when former club Arsenal visit west London, and April 25, when Chelsea go to the Emirates Stadium.

Manchester City begin their title defence away from home as they take on Newcastle United at St James' Park. But it is the following weekend that throws up the first mouth-watering fixture, with last season's runners-up Liverpool travelling to the Etihad on August 23.

City's opening run contains the three other clubs that qualified for the Champions League last season. After Liverpool, City make a trip to Arsenal on September 13 and receive a visit from Chelsea on September 20.

In a strange twist, Liverpool host Southampton on the opening day after a summer of interest in several of their key players. Brendan Rodgers' side then meet Manchester City and Tottenham in their next two games, with the first Merseyside derby looming large on September 27 at Goodison Park.

After doing the double over old rivals Manchester United last season, Rodgers will get his first chance against Van Gaal at Old Trafford on December 13. The following weekend he will welcome Arsenal to Anfield.

After letting the Premier League trophy slip through his fingers during last season's run-in, the omens do not look good for Rodgers in 2015. Two of his final three games are against the same opposition as last year, with Liverpool meeting Chelsea on May 9, and Crystal Palace on May 16.

With Liverpool's hopes of winning last season's title ruined by a 2-0 loss to Chelsea and a 3-3 draw with Palace, they will be desperate to avoid letting history repeat itself this term.

Last season's FA Cup winners Arsenal have been given a mixed bag in their opening run, kicking off their campaign against Palace before facing Everton, Leicester, Manchester City and Aston Villa. Fans will be looking forward to the first North London derby on September 27, as Tottenham visit the Emirates, with the return fixture taking place on February 7.

Premier League managers might well spare a thought for West Brom's new boss Alan Irvine. He has been handed an awful run-in, facing Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle, Chelsea, and Arsenal in his final five games.

Promoted sides Leicester, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers open their Premier League campaigns against Everton, Chelsea and Hull respectively.

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