Opinion: Groundwork for the season being laid in Surrey
Ask any player or coach about what pre-season entails and you’ll probably hear the following words and phrases uttered: Hard work. Sweat. Determination. Running. Going the extra mile.
“The intensity of training will be good,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself told us on Monday, on the first day of the Reds training camp in Surrey.
“It’s always great when you get through a hard week of training and then maybe the weather cools down a little bit and you feel so much stronger as a player and you feel you can run more.”
From the outside, it’s difficult to judge just what ‘a hard week of training’ means – after all, isn’t this bread and butter for professionals, playing football every day?
But being here, and being able to watch United’s players day in and day out as they go through their preparatory work, it really does hit home just how much the squad are grafting ahead of the big kick-off.
Readers from outside of the UK may not realise just how hot it is here right now: 30 degrees, humid, stultifying. It’s uncomfortable just watching, never mind playing.
Wednesday’s session – following on from Tuesday’s double dose of action – involved a solid two hours of toil, as the lads worked on fitness, pressing and more. There’s no shade out on the pitch and nowhere to hide – just a quick trip to a trailer packed full of ice-cold water for hydration before work resumes.
The new season proper is still three-and-a-half weeks away, but the groundwork has to be laid now.
We saw last season just how important this time is. United’s players had just 34 days between the end of one campaign and the start of another, with very little training time together and just one friendly.
Our early season form suffered as a result, and it’s clear that, with more time to spare this time around – even if several key first-team players are still on their holidays – Ole and his coaching staff want to ensure the players are in the best shape possible.
Nothing is being left out on the pitch.
No pain, no gain! Gallery
Pre-season is all about hard work and determination and these sweat-drenched images sum that up perfectly…
The best example of that is the close-up, sweat-drenched images our photographers have been lucky enough to snap, as the players try and push through that pain barrier which will allow them to run further and harder in those winter months to come.
It’s not all about fitness: the keepers still go off in their groups to work, and later on there was a focus on small-sided games and getting shots off.
There’s a good team spirit to these exercises: loud shouts of praise when Aaron Wan-Bissaka puts in a good tackle or Mason Greenwood finds the bottom corner with his right.
But behind the laughs and camaraderie, there’s a real togetherness in the sense of working towards that goal of being ready for the new campaign.
There was some reward at the end of a long, hard morning: a rare afternoon off, to rest, relax and regather thoughts – but even that can’t be taken for granted.
Because everyone knows there is more hard work to come on Thursday.