Manchester United have had 15 players involved in Euro 2020 and the Copa America this summer, plus a further two who will be competing at the Olympics in Japan later this month.
Participation at international tournaments always has a knock-on impact on pre-season, with players having to delay their summer holiday, which is crucial for rest and recovery, before resuming training for the new club season.
Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who now serves FIFA in an advisory role, has been vocal on the subject on footballer holidays in the past and preaches a minimum of four weeks of rest between the end of one season and beginning training for the next.
Some players may rush themselves back sooner depending on individual circumstances but there should never be an expectation for that to be the case. Others may also be afforded more time off.
When players might return to pre-season has been worked out on the assumption of a four-week holiday, counted forward from the day after their country’s last tournament game.
Ahead of friendlies against Derby (18 July), QPR (24 July), Brentford (28 July), Preston (31 July) and Everton (7 August), United pre-season training for a skeletal squad officially began on 5 July. But additional returning players will be joining the group all the time over the coming weeks.
The 2021/22 season then starts with the Premier League visit of Leeds on Saturday 14 August.
Here’s a look at when fans might expect international stars to be available.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Dean Henderson* (England)
United’s England stars, which will soon include Sancho once his already agreed transfer is fully completed, got all the way to the final of Euro 2020.
Maguire and Shaw in particular were both important starters, while Sancho had limited game time and Rashford featured regularly but only as a substitute. The latter will need to decide if he should undergo surgery on a troublesome long-term shoulder injury, which would likely push his return date back and potentially means missing the start of the season.
Return after a four-week holiday: 9 August
*Henderson’s commitment with England actually ended on 13 June because of injury and, if fit, he should be available to report for duty much sooner.
David de Gea (Spain)
David de Gea was with the Spain squad until their semi-final elimination, although the United goalkeeper didn’t actually get on the pitch after Unai Simon got the nod as starter.
The 30-year-old’s United future remains uncertain but he is not believed to be resigned to leaving the club where he’s spent the last decade and will fight Dean Henderson for his place.
Return after a four-week holiday: 4 August
Victor Lindelof (Sweden)
Sweden got to the knockout stages of another international tournament and Victor Lindelof played every minute of his country’s four games.
He may no longer be a starter if United are successful in longstanding plans to sign another centre-back to partner Harry Maguire. But with no such deal done yet and Maguire’s delayed return to training, Lindelof could still remain an important player in the early parts of the season.
Return after a four-week holiday: 28 July
Paul Pogba (France)
Given that France were one of the hot favourites to win Euro 2020, United probably didn’t expect to have Paul Pogba back in training until some time in August. But the surprise early elimination for Les Bleus means the midfielder will have had four weeks off by 27 July.
Pogba is yet to sign a new contract with United and the club must decide how to proceed, but he showed with his performances for France just how good he is.
Return after a four-week holiday: 27 July
Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Dalot (Portugal)
Bruno Fernandes played 58 times for United last season and the impact of that showed at Euro 2020 when he was a shadow of usual self in a Portugal side that failed to live up to expectations.
In a way, Portugal’s last 16 exit probably did United a favour because Fernandes can have the recommended minimum of four weeks rest and still report for pre-season duty in good time.
Return after a four-week holiday: 26 July
Daniel James (Wales)
Daniel James was a key starter for Wales at Euro 2020. After a whirlwind first season he appears to have found his level for United as a back-up rotation player and that will be the role he continues to fill, especially given the arrival of Sancho.
Dylan Levitt was also in the Wales squad, playing a few minutes as a substitute in the final group game against Italy. He spent last season on loan in Croatia and would be unlikely to have a first-team role this season but reported for pre-season on day one to try and make an impression.
Return after a four-week holiday: 25 July
Scott McTominay (Scotland)
Scotland were unable to progress beyond the group stage at Euro 2020, meaning that Scott McTominay is already close to having had a full four-week holiday.
The 2020/21 campaign was another big step forward for the home-grown star, playing 49 times in all competitions and adding more goals to his game. He’ll be 25 in December and is already approaching the realms of being a ‘senior’ player in a young squad.
Return after a four-week holiday: 21 July
After missing out on the 2019 Copa America and never getting off the bench at the 2018 World Cup, Fred was a starter at this summer’s Copa America as Brazil reached the final.
He started every game apart from the dead rubber final group match against Ecuador, although was subbed at half-time in the final against Argentina following a very early yellow card.
Return after a four-week holiday: 8 August
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)
Edinson Cavani scored twice in crucial group stage wins to ensure Uruguay would make it to the knockout stages, before La Celeste lost on penalties to Colombia in the quarter-finals.
Cavani finished last season in sublime form and has firmly put the pressure on Anthony Martial to prove his fitness and form in pre-season this summer.
Return after a four-week holiday: 2 August
Eric Bailly, Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast)
Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo have both been named in the Ivory Coast squad for the Olympic Games in Japan, which runs from 22 July until 7 August. The minimum commitment is the group stage, which finishes for Les Elephants on 28 July.
Whether Bailly and Amad can help their country progress to the knockout stages remains to be seen. But it will be a tough ask given they must finish in the top two of a group containing Brazil and Germany, who took gold and silver in the last Olympics in 2016.
With the tournament yet to start, it is impossible to say when exactly the United pair will be released from international duty. Even if Ivory Coast don’t make it past the group stage, a short three-week holiday after that would still rule Bailly and Amad out of the start of the club season.