whereas before it didn’t seem to have much effect. But just because you’re in the gym, that doesn’t make you a great player. It’s small percentages of improvement that help you become a better athlete and player. Becoming a father has really helped, too. Having two lads [twins Jack and Tyler] has matured me as a person, and that helps on the pitch as well.
What difference has having the boys made to you off the pitch and on it?
Having the boys has helped take my mind away from football, which is no bad thing. When I was younger I was intense and uptight about how well I was playing. I was constantly thinking about situations in games, what I could do better, or a bad performance would play on my mind. If you’re sitting at home with nothing else to do it’s easier to think about those things. Whereas now I go home to my children, who take up lots of my time, and it puts everything else into perspective. It gives you a great outlook on life. Now I know there’s a time to work and be focused on that. But I’ve also got my family, who are the biggest part of my life now. It allows me to relax much more, and because of that my game and outlook on everything is more balanced and more mature.
Mike Clegg [United’s strength and conditioning coach] says you’ve struck the perfect balance between football fitness and gym work. The only other person he’s seen do that is Cristiano Ronaldo. Quite a compliment...
Fitness has never been a problem, but in terms of strength and power my gym work has made a real difference. Striking the right balance is important. There’d be no point in bulking up if that was to the detriment of being able to get around the pitch, which is a big part of my game. I wanted to get to a level where I had strength, but also the stamina to keep going over 90 minutes. I’ve found a good balance, although I reckon I