United youngsters hard at work in Austria
Manchester United’s Under-23s and Under-18s are currently in Austria, preparing for the 2019/20 Academy season.
The young Reds have trained in Obertraun in the last two summers but are based closer to the capital Vienna this time around.There is the opportunity for the newly appointed coaches Neil Wood and Quinton Fortune to work with the older group, while Neil Ryan is putting his first and second-year scholars through their paces. The club's Head of Academy, Nicky Butt, is also in attendance, overseeing the sessions.
The pre-season camps have proved popular in the past with staff and players alike, as they provide a great launchpad for the upcoming campaign.
“First of all, it’s about getting back to full fitness,” explained midfielder Arnau Puigmal. “Everyone knows it’s difficult to return to that 100 per cent fitness level. It’s really hard as it’s more running and gym work than in Spain but I’m used to it now.“It’s also good to get back to being with the group as it’s like a family there. Everyone is together – the Under-18s, Under-23s and the staff.”
Fellow midfield man Ethan Galbraith feels it will be educational to make the most of the new facilities. “It’s a different place and a different experience, which is what we’re looking for all the time,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s been hot in Manchester but it’s even hotter in Austria and we know the physical work is going to get even harder. The strength and conditioning coaches have different programmes for every individual player and we know it’s what we do off the pitch that makes us play well on it.”
The temperatures are currently a few degrees warmer out near Vienna, but the location is cooler than Obertraun, and this is not a concern for keeper Alex Fojticek.
”I’m used to hot weather in the summer as I’m from Slovakia,” he said. “We get cold winters but, in the spring, summer and autumn, it’s always hot. The most important thing is to prepare for the new season. We get one week here and it’s always really tough, but it's great to be back together as a group."
United’s Under-23s have arranged a friendly on Friday against Austria Vienna at the Franz Horr Stadium. A number of the players have faced the hosts in the past but in an indoor competition staged in Germany.
“They were a great team at five-a-side, having a lot of possession, and they were a threat attacking-wise,” commented forward Largie Ramazani. “We know it’s going to be a tough game.”
“When teams play against a big club like United it’s huge for them, so they’ll be coming out all guns blazing,” added defender Di’Shon Bernard.
“We need to match their work levels and be better. I think everyone needs game time to prepare themselves for the season and it’s always good experience playing a team from abroad because you can see their different qualities and abilities.”
The club has also organised two matches at the STATSports Super Cup NI tournament in Northern Ireland, taking on Rangers in Coleraine on Saturday 27 July (17:30 BST) and Ballymena United on Monday 29 July (19:30 BST).
The latter fixture at Ballymena Showgrounds will pit the Reds against a side who are currently in the Europa League and are managed by an ex-United youth-team player David Jeffrey.
“I have fond memories of my time at Manchester United as a 14-year-old schoolboy, as an apprentice and then as a young pro,” explained Jeffrey.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t stay on but I am proud to have been there and the club blazer still hangs in my wardrobe. It is one of my most cherished possessions.”