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Rewind 15 days or so. I’m at Carrington sat in the canteen with the Manchester United coaching staff and the man at the wheel. I’m a researcher and a practitioner in elite sports performance at the facility on other business and nothing to do with what you may read here.
A researcher fascinated by all things elite, serial winning and Manchester United among other indomitable greats such as Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Tom Brady, Real Madrid, Usain Bolt and so on I can’t help taking in the energy in the offices as I go about my work.
Training is being planned, it’s less than 48 hours after a game and associated travel, ‘A recovery day’.
“We’ll play an 11 v 11 then eh? 40 minutes say? No 22.5 each way… , Er…. Go on…, well that’s a half isn’t it? no…., tell you what injury time as well, ok then injury time as well, tell you what injury time and a winning goal. Sounds good to me, let’s get out there.”
Natural, not a second thought about it, no further discussion, that is the epitome and dynamic of Manchester United Football Club right now. I’ve witnessed hundreds of training ground games over the years, not many like this on a recovery day mind and I can honestly tell you the pace, the desire, the tackles, the freedom and willingness to create and win was infectious. What’s more a look to my left and at least ten players plus who were either injured or forced to sit out due to their last match exertions were not only voluntarily watching they were there cheering every touch, every attack, and quite literally demanding both quality and entertainment from their peers and believe me it was being delivered in abundance.
Throughout the day I came into contact with the receptionist, an accountant, the player care team, a psychologist, an academy coach, performance and recruitment staff, the grounds staff, the doctor, the physio, the kit man, the gate man, the IT staff and even Ed Woodward was on site. Everyone was ten feet tall, everyone had a smile on their face, time for each other, time for anyone, yet each individual was also very purposeful in their business, clear in their objective and totally focussed on whatever their task in hand may be. I arrived early in the morning, I left well past what a 9 to 5 day expects, however it felt like I had been there merely seconds.
It's an attitude, atmosphere and culture such as this that forms the bedrock of nights like Paris. A personal belief, a training intensity and a sheer love of both football and winning that allows Manchester United over many a year to consistently triumph in times of adversity and consistently play to the death. Solskjaer without Pogba has now trodden where Ferguson once tread without Keane and created yet more Champions League folklore. In all honesty you could have put the staff mentioned above on last nights team sheet and the way Ole is steering this ship right now they would’ve still won the game.
With regards to the Premier league form table (last 15 games) United sit two points clear of Liverpool and 3 clear of their light blue neighbours.
With regards to the Champions League the favourites have just been dispatched. Multi million pound marquee signings are playing out of their skin and scoring goals for fun, youth team players are being blooded quicker than Nicky Butt can fill in the professional contract forms (5 in last nights starting line up under the age of 19) and the goal difference has gone from break even to exaggeratedly positive. The only scientific explanation I can offer to date is. Ole is at the wheel and its about time this great football club stepped forward and verified his driver’s licence.