With Bramall Lane set to stage three group fixtures during next month’s UEFA Women’s European Championships and also a semi-final on July 26, officials at the club were concerned they would not have enough time to prepare their stadium for a domestic game less than a handful of days later.
The Star understands United expressed those fears during a recent meeting between the governing body and its member clubs, with senior figures at the EFL apparently agreeing after pairing Paul Heckingbottom’s side with one of the three teams relegated from the Premier League last term.
The match takes place on Monday 1 August (Kick-off 8pm), before Millwall visit South Yorkshire five days later. With the Carabao Cup schedule also set to be published shortly, that gives United’s grounds staff enough time to make adjustments to the pitch and also remove the branding of UEFA and its commercial partners before replacing it with their own ahead of their meeting with Gary Rowett’s squad.
Having reached the play-off semi-finals last term, losing on penalties to eventual winners Nottingham Forest, Heckingbottom and his team hope to be celebrating regaining the top-flight status they surrendered 14 months ago when they complete the 2022/23 programme at Birmingham City.
What appears to be a tough start sees them make the journey to Middlesbrough, now managed by Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder, after facing Millwall ahead of a midweek visit by Sunderland.
United host neighbours Rotherham on September 10 with Cardiff City (a) their final opponents before the competition pauses for the World Cup. They return to action with a home match against Huddersfield Town, who also qualified for the end of term knockouts last season.
United clash with their rivals from West Yorkshire again during the run-in, before facing Preston North End and then Lee Bowyer’s men.
After reporting back for duty at their training complex earlier this week, Heckingbottom and his charges begin their preparations in earnest with a friendly against Portuguese outfit Casa Pia early next month.