When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went into this season as Manchester United manager he made it his priority for the squad to be fitter.
Speaking in October after the draw with Liverpool, Solskjaer told the club website he felt his plan was coming to fruition.
He said: “We’ve trained hard and we’re fitter than we’ve ever been. In the Liverpool game we outran them and I don’t think anyone would have thought that about us last season. The boys have got a different engine now.”
As we head towards United’s first match of the restarted season in late June, United’s extensive fitness work may really pay off.
Indeed for two months of lockdown, fitness work was all United’s players were allowed to do, before an eventual return to Carrington in late May.
This is where the hard work Solskjaer instilled in his players from last summer may really pay off.
Already his players were tuned into his expectations to stay in peak condition, and we will soon see just how they have embraced the challenge.
Be prepared for anything
This restarted campaign is a leap into the unknown, and the players will have to be ready for anything. They should be raring to go, and several would have been expecting to play in June anyway, just in an international tournament instead of club football.
The fitness of Manchester United’s players has been tested throughout the season. The team have been required to play twice a week and have played 47 matches already.
There are nine Premier League matches left, and if all get played, three FA Cup games, and six Europa League games. It’s not just about tonight’s game, it’s about maintaining fitness and intensity across all of them.
United took the approach throughout the recent period to order their players to be prepared, and the players have seemed to buy in, Scott McTominay’s incredibly fast 5k run time of just 16 minutes he recorded demonstrates.
The players were not resting, they were working hard, under strict instructions.
Last summer Solskjaer told The Telegraph: “We are building fitness, robustness, mental robustness and it has been very encouraging.”
It all looked to be coming together as the team hit form in February and March before the season was halted.
This organisation and preparation will leave United in a good condition, potentially much better than other teams, now the games are finally ready to resume.
There was no sudden scramble to get fit. United’s players are already in top shape.
Several of them look leaner and stronger, with Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Mason Greenwood among those to look a little different.
Solskjaer even said of Greenwood, via the club website: “You see Mason and know he’s getting a little bit stronger and more like a man. And, for us, in training, it’s been good seeing him making that step to really maturing now.
“He is taking the gym really seriously and everything he is doing really seriously and looks a different player, to be fair. These are exciting times for him as well.”
In there is just a 10 per cent edge on our competitors heading into these return games, it could make a huge difference.
The players have listened to Solskjaer, and over the next few weeks, the manager’s masterplan could bring strong results.
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