McKenna explains United have plans A, B and C
Assistant coach Kieran McKenna has revealed Manchester United staff are working towards the hope that the COVID-19 lockdown could be eased in May, with a view to returning to training, although plans B and C have also been prepared in case the period of isolation is extended for a second time.
McKenna stresses that health is more important than sport at this time and resources must not be taken away from the community when they’re needed most. However, with the discussion of football’s return evolving every day, Kieran says everybody at United is determined to complete this 2019/20 campaign and plans are being put into action to ensure the players will be ready.
Watch the full show below, or scroll further down to read Kieran’s comments...
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“Yeah, pretty much every day in some form or another. Obviously we have got a big staff and a big playing squad, so it's important to keep in touch. Every day, we are in touch with the players. I will contact some and the other staff will contact others. There are regular sessions going on with the fitness coaches, on different online platforms, so we'll all jump into that as well. Coaching-wise, we are having quite a few online conferences as well to discuss different things. There is communication on a daily basis, really. It is maybe not quite as much as when we are living on top of each other for 11 months of the year, we are keeping up plenty of contact.”
We can see what the players are doing on their social media, so does each player have their own personal plan?
“Yeah they all have their own plan, like they would throughout the year anyway in terms of their gym and rehabilitation, and some of their physical aspects as well. On top of that, there is group stuff, so group sections that everyone has to log into. We are actually in a period where we are just coming off them a little bit - they have worked really hard for four weeks of the lockdown so far, so we don't want to flat-line with working hard for too long, over a long period with hard runs and things like that. We are having a little period, at the minute, where they are coming off it a little bit, just doing what they need individually, and then over the next couple of weeks we will ramp it up against with more specific stuff, and more formal work together as a whole group.”
“It is not easy. All you can do is take your guess of the guidelines and the lockdown protocol. We have tried to work in two-week blocks, so they've had two weeks of work and then the lockdown was extended. We've adapted to that because that was something we expected anyway. At the moment, we are working towards, touch wood, the lockdown loosening after the next deadline and being able to return to some sort of training. We are working to that schedule at the moment but, if we have to push back again, we have got a plan B and plan C already prepared.”
Everybody is reflecting during these weeks of lockdown, so can that lead to you thinking about new coaching methods and tactical plans?
“Yeah, definitely. I think anybody from all of the clubs would say it is massively valuable. You just don't get time during the season, too often, to take stock of what you're doing yourself, because you have got a game every three or four days. We have a little bit of time at the moment to watch back some of our games, some of our training, to think forward to what might be possible in the future for ourselves. We are hopefully going to have a full squad of players to work with, whenever we come back, in terms of injured boys coming back. So you are thinking about how we can re-integrate them, what the squad might look like with them boys back in and how we might look on the pitch.”
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“Yeah, it would be nice. Obviously, those are two massively talented players who you are talking about and we have not really had them all season. Luke [Shaw] and Anthony [Martial] were picking up injuries in the first half of the season, with Scott [McTominay] picking up injuries, all missing most of the season, and obviously Marcus being a big miss as well, so we haven't really had a full complement to pick from all season. The rest of the squad deserves credit and Ole for how he has managed that, and for managing to keep the group together. If we can get to a point where we get everybody back in, then it's certainly good competition for places in some positions, and also a chance to rotate, which we haven't always had the possibility to do, to give people a breather and manage the squad that way.”
What is your personal stance on the finishing of this present season?
“To be honest, we are in a similar position to the general public where everyone is just waiting for the government protocols, and for the health workers to assess the situation and give us the all clear. From a personal point of view, and from speaking to the other staff and players, everyone is keen to play and everyone wants to finish the competitions. For us, we are still in a couple of cup competitions with a good shout, and we are still fighting for things in the league as well, so we would like to get it played and that is what everyone is hoping for. But, again, everybody is in the same boat - health is the most important thing, we can't take big risks, we can't take away resources from other parts of the community that need it more. We'd like to get it played, we have to be ready, but we also know that football is massively important,, but it is not the most important thing in the country, or the world, at this time. We have to take a backseat and be ready.”
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“I think everyone is probably aware that the league has to take precedence in terms of if there was a limited timescale. That is something that has been discussed. Obviously the FA Cup is important for the country and important for us as a club as well. The schedule is looking tight towards the end of the season. It seems the European competitions are really keen to start in August as well. So that probably tightens the schedule a little bit. There is probably a feeling that everybody would like to get next season played in full and up and running at a reasonable time, where we could look forward to a full season of football next year. There are a lot of things to consider and it is not going to be an easy job for the people who put it together. I am sure, whichever way it comes out in the wash, it will maybe advantage or disadvantage certain clubs, or something people will be more happy than others. I think everyone has to be prepared to make sacrifices and think about the greater good, of the community first of all, and football after that.”
When the lads come back, would it be a pre-season or just 10 days when you try to get back up to speed?
“There are certain elements that you have to look at as an off-season, really, because of the amount of time the boys have been off. Coming back from an off-season of anything from three to eight weeks, the players will have a six, seven, eight run-in. But, at the moment, they are maintaining a higher level of fitness and certainly training at a higher level than an off-season, so we don't there to be too much of a drop-off in terms of fitness and general conditioning. At the moment, we are working off the premise that we'll have a short window of training, maybe three weeks or so, before we return. We're trying to get the boys to a point where they are coming back into those three weeks, fit enough and can go straight back into 11 versus 11, so we can use that time for tactical work and match fitness. We know the boys are doing a lot of individual work at the moment that should account for their base level of fitness being in a good state when they come back.”
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We’ve said every time on this programme that football really doesn’t matter in the current situation, but it must have been frustrating to end when we did, when everything had seemed to have clicked, scoring goals, not conceding any, 11 unbeaten?
“Yeah it is, in a way. We were on a good run and the group was confident. When it’s like that you want the games to keep coming thick and fast, which they were at that time. Yeah, it is frustrating in a way, but, again, I said it before we feel as a staff and I think, even the players within the club, feel like a run of good form was coming. Obviously, the winter break helped and the training that we got out in Marbella, plus also Bruno [Fernandes] and Odion [Ighalo] coming in, giving the group a big boost, but we also feel like there was some good work going on before that with the players that were in the squad. There was a good structure, a good set-up, a good ethic in the group for those boys to drop into. Our hope is that it wasn’t a one-off run of good form that comes to an end and we won’t be able to match again. We’re hoping that we’re putting the right things in place, getting the right people in the door and having the right structures and a good consistent set-up will enable us to be more consistent in the future, because we know that’s what we need to do and where we need to get to. We hope to come out of the break in a stronger way, continue some of the things that have been going on, that we feel have contributed to that run of good form and we’ll be hopeful that we can pick it up again whenever we get going.”
It can’t be easy joining a new club in January, but goodness me what an impact those guys have had in such a short space of time?
“Yeah they did, and look, they’ve had massive credit and they deserve massive credit, so I think they’ve both had a big impact in their own way. Obviously Bruno’s been a big positive. The fans have taken to him, the players have taken to him and the staff as well. He’s a great professional, a good person and a great person to have around. Odion has come in and, you know, it’s been well publicised, his passion and love for the club and that’s endeared him to a lot of people straight off the bat, but also he’s a proven goalscorer and he gives something a little bit different and adds good experience to our forward line. They’ve both had a big impact individually, but, like I said, I think the other boys deserve credit as well for how they’ve settled in. I think, traditionally, it’s very hard for boys to come into a club and hit the ground running, so I don’t think it’s a case that those two have been able to do it by themselves. I think it’s testament to the group, to the spirit, to the work that’s gone on with the staff behind the scenes as well to have a good structure and good set-up in place that if they bring the right players in, like those two, it helps them to hit the ground running and show their best form pretty quickly. So it’s been a big boost, so big credit to them, but I think big credit to the rest of the lads as well.”
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