United kicked off pre-season training this week, so we caught up with Sir Alex's right-hand man Mike Phelan to discuss the Reds' preparations...
Is everyone ready to go again with renewed determination after a break?
It’s early doors yet, we’re talking now on the third day back – and not everyone is here, the World Cup lads are still missing. But on the whole the mood is very good. The players look refreshed. They know what pre-season is about! I think they’ve just got to focus on getting themselves fit and ready for when they have to perform.
How much planning do you have to do for pre-season?
A lot. There’s repetition from previous years, good work which we try to repeat, but you also have to introduce new elements so the players aren’t getting bored. Pre-season is difficult for players, especially this one as for some players it’s the longest break they’ve had in many years. Their concentration has dropped, so it’s important they get their heads round what we’re asking them to do and move on quickly. We’re going on tour relatively early, so our preparations are split between Carrington and our bases in America.
Different players are returning at different times - how do you manage that?
Well, we’re Manchester United and we have the facilities, the staff and experience to cater for every eventuality. We concentrate now on the group that is with us and when the others come back they will be taken care of by other members of staff. Then we'll bring it all together in the final week before we start the season. That’s the aim. Obviously the World Cup players will be a little bit behind, but that sharpness will come. Players today are sensible anyway, they look after themselves a lot better than they used to.
Better than in your playing days?
[Laughs] Yeah! And it changes all the time. Players’ attitudes change, and the stakes are probably higher now than they’ve ever been. You have more players to work with too so you can structure things differently. Each player has a different preparation period and