Rio Ferdinand reveals it’s been a long time since he’s looked forward to the rigours of pre-season quite so much as he did this year.
“It’s nice to be back training,” he told MUTV. “I'm enjoying it. This has been the longest break I've ever had in my career so I was desperate to get back and see the lads and get training.”
It’s the social side of pre-season Rio’s enjoying most at the moment, although he admits even the fitness work isn’t too arduous these days.
“The best thing about being back is seeing the lads and having the banter and seeing what everyone has been up to over the summer," admitted Rio. "Obviously you're getting back into the football side of things but running comes a long way second to seeing the lads!
“That said, me and Giggsy were talking the other day about pre-season and how we remember, when we first started, how it used to be sickening when you came in for the first 10 days or so. The coaches used to beat the life out of your legs [with all the running].
“Now things are a lot more scientific and a bit easier on the body, even though you're still able to get to the same level of fitness at the right time.
“But it's the games on tour I really enjoy. You get to gauge how far along you are in terms of fitness and what more you need to do. It also helps you get your eye back in, football-wise. We can't wait for the games to come now.”
By the end of United’s extensive pre-season schedule – six matches in five different countries – the Reds should be primed to begin the quest to reclaim the Barclays Premier League trophy. Last season’s late twist in the title race will only act as further motivation inside the United camp.
“At first it was one of those things you couldn't get out of your mind,” Rio said. “For the first couple of weeks you're waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what happened and how it could have ended differently.