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 could still do a little more and put on more weight without affecting my fitness. There’s room for improvement but, like I said, I’m always looking to develop the little things. It’s not just the physical side – it’s a mental thing as well. I have more experience now, and simply being at this club improves you as a player; being in this team, around these great professionals. It’s been a gradual progression for me, but I’m really enjoying myself and I want that to continue for many more years to come.
When Ronaldo left in the summer, Sir Alex said it was a chance for other players to step up. Did you see it as your opportunity to stamp your mark on the team?
The players all knew we were losing a massive player, and a big gap in how and where we got our goals. We knew other players would have to rise to the challenge – we needed everyone to raise their game. Maybe there were times when we expected Ronaldo to come up with the goods, whereas now everyone knows we need to produce, individually or collectively. We’re a different team now, with a different style. Ronaldo was brilliant for us as much as we were brilliant for him, but now we have a new style and new players. We try to find the best way to win a match as a team. That’s United’s secret and a lot of the players have learnt that from Giggs, Scholes and Neville. There’s more than one way to win a match. We’ve shown already this season that we can win playing brilliant, attacking football. But sometimes it