Ole exclusive: This break is important
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the winter break gives his Manchester United players the perfect opportunity to rest and recuperate before the season heads into its final straight.
In an exclusive chat with MUTV, the manager reveals the location in which United will conduct our warm weather training camp, and what he’s hoping to get from our time away.
Read what the boss had to say to Stewart Gardner in our full interview transcript below…
The winter break. Has it come at the right time after a very heavy load?
“It’s important that English football got this break. Whenever it’s going to be I think it will benefit the players and benefit the teams. December and January were really hectic with loads of games, nine in each of those months, so our players were stretched and yeah, it’s a good time for us now.”
In this first week, have the players basically had freedom to get a few days of genuine holiday?
“Especially the ones who have played a lot, they have been more or less told to take it easier than the others. Everyone’s got more or less their own individual programmes, so the ones who played less or are just returning from injury, they’re doing a little bit more and of course for the new signings, it’s also a good time now for them to integrate into the group.”
What about you as well? You were at the Youth Cup, you were at the Munich Memorial. You could have been somewhere with your feet up, you don’t seem to be doing that?
“[I've had some] family time and of course when you’ve got a game here [at Old Trafford] in the Youth Cup, I think it was a good night. It’s always nice to see how the players cope with a different atmosphere, with the stadium, and I thought the boys did excellent.”
So the main training camp, can you just tell us a bit about it? You’re down in Spain for a bit.
“Yeah, we go to Spain and it’s a chance now to regroup and evaluate what has been good, because we haven’t had time to do too much training, so we’ll get a good seven, eight or nine days of training before Chelsea and the rest of the season. Hopefully we’ll have two games every week, so that’s the biggest part, reintegrating and restarting again, because there have been loads of positives, a few negatives, and we’ve just got to make sure that the end of the season is going to be a good one.”
Will it be a case of all first-team players travelling, including the injured players?
“No, we do have different scenarios. There will be three or four [who don't travel]. Marcus [Rashford], Paul [Pogba], they’re not ready yet to join in the training. Lee Grant unfortunately has had an injury, so he will require surgery, so he will be out for two or three months, so hopefully he’ll get back before the end of the season. Odion [Ighalo] will stay in Manchester, because since he has come from China in the last 14 days, the news of the virus there [means] we're not sure if he's going to be allowed back into England if he leaves the country again, so he's staying here working with a personal coach on an individual programme and his family then can settle in England as well. That's a plus. Of course he might have liked to have come with the players and got to know them, but we don’t want to take that risk [of potential border restrictions tightening]."
What about Scott [McTominay]?
“Scotty has done better in his recovery than we thought, so we will take him with us. Hopefully he can join in the training sessions and Axel [Tuanzebe] as well, he’ll join in, so that’s two positives and it’s a good chance for them to use this time with the players.”
Obviously [Bruno] Fernandes will be there as well. It gives him a chance to really integrate.
“Yeah, definitely. I’ve kept in touch with him. He’s had a few days back home to organise. He’s going to have to move house and say his goodbyes back home, so he’s ready. He wasn’t 100 per cent happy with his debut and there’s more to come, so that’s a good sign.”
We’ve seen the unbelievable enthusiasm of Ighalo. That must give everyone a boost as well?
“Of course, we want players here who want to give everything they’ve got and Odion I know from before. He played in Norway and he’s got such a lovely personality, a great character and he’s going to come in and be a big, big boost for himself, his family, his country, but also our group.”
We had a mini-break a year ago – what are you looking to get out of this one? Something similar?
“Of course, we [want to] come back and kick on. We want to get results. Towards the end now, before this break, we played okay and didn’t concede too many goals. But we didn’t create chances and missed that little bit of spark, I felt. Maybe because of the mental tiredness. Physically, they did really well in every aspect of the games but mentally, now, we kick on.”
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