The footballing world will be keeping an eye on United and their hopes of clinching the Premier League title this weekend after they undertook their final pre-season training session at St Andrews. Manager Louis van Gaal whipped his team into top form towards the end of last season, winning the FA Cup and finishing top of the league. He is hoping this season will be the one where the Red Devils can win the trophy for the first time since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson.
It’s a big week for United, with the Champions League quarter-final clash against Barcelona. And the Manchester club’s chief executive Ed Woodward has already hinted that this weekend’s St Andrews training camp is likely to be the last pre-season trip before Mourinho’s side begins their Premier League title defence at home to Leicester City on August 10.
Man United have resumed training at St. Andrews after playing the first match of a three-game tour of the United States. They have two short training sessions each day, and then meet with the BBC’s Gary Lineker, before flying back to Manchester.
4:17 a.m. Eastern Time
Rob Dawson is a correspondent for the BBC.
ST ANDREWS, Scotland — When informed it was the Manchester United team coach who had temporarily halted traffic, the cab driver said, “They’re pish.”
Despite that harsh judgment, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players were greeted warmly in Scotland as they finalized preparations for the new Premier League season, which kicks off on Saturday at Old Trafford against Leeds United.
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The home of golf was the ideal setting for United’s championship hopes, according to Solskjaer.
During the summer of 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson led United to St Andrews, the university town where Prince William met Kate Middleton, ahead of what turned out to be his last season as manager. Barcelona utilized the town, which is 50 miles north of Edinburgh, as a preseason headquarters in 2007, and Brighton did the same last summer.
West Ham landed in early July and began their morning jog at West Sands Beach, which was made famous by the opening moments of the film “Chariots of Fire.” The most of the time, Mark Noble was dumping seaweed on his colleagues’ heads.
Passers-by were welcome to see David Moyes’ squad practice at the University Sports Centre, but his previous club was more discreet.
Before the squad arrived, an advance party of United personnel was sent up to surround the training fields with white fencing, but that didn’t stop 30 or so curious onlookers from standing on a wall to watch the team’s first session on Monday evening.
The following morning, red “Do Not Climb” signs and a new, much higher fence had arrived. One young fan attempted to peer over the fence at the opposite end of the fields, but was soon apprehended by two club security officers monitoring the perimeter. Nothing is left to chance when it comes to United.
Man United finished second last season after finishing third the year before. Will they be able to continue to improve? Getty
Despite the fact that it is a five-hour journey from Manchester to St Andrews, United packed everything from advertising boards to a bespoke golf cart with a large screen connected to the rear, which was used to give players instructions before each session.
A group of staff members unlocked a huge black box that looked like it should be transporting gold bricks into a bank vault when training started with stretches and lunges over tiny yellow hurdles. Before long, a drone is buzzing above, recording every pass and run.
Games of head tennis were followed by passing exercises that gradually increased in complexity and intensity while the 42A bus to Dundee rumbled by. The third component was an emphasis on pressing, both how to execute it and how to defeat it, which is an important aspect of Solskjaer’s preferred style of play.
Six-a-side games were typically played at the conclusion of the sessions. Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Harry Maguire, and Phil Jones were part of the victorious squad on Monday. Because the games were so frenetic, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was practicing alone with a coach, took a break to observe them.
The majority of the players’ spare time was spent at the Old Course Hotel’s team area, where they played pool, table tennis, and Uno while watching the Olympics and catching up on “Love Island” episodes. Andreas Pereira was the man to beat in pingpong.
The team was granted the afternoon off on Wednesday, so Mata, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, and Daniel James went to a nearby course to play golf.
Golfing with the guys was a blast! pic.twitter.com/kkhIwEIfht
August 4, 2021 — Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93)
The majority of the players and staff had rooms with views of the Old Course’s 17th fairway, which is usually the most difficult hole for anybody attempting to win the Open Championship, but it was deemed that playing there would draw too much attention.
They were permitted to utilize “The Swing Studio” at the hotel as a consolation prize, which enables visitors to practically play 60 of the world’s most renowned courses. Solskjaer isn’t a golfer (his perspective is “a nice stroll ruined”), but he did witness a few players take on the 17th hole’s blind tee shot from his hotel window.
United’s manager was seen in his room by a small group of fans on the public walkway that runs between the golf course and the hotel, demonstrating the level of interest in the club. The Norwegian gave them a thumbs up and waved.
Even the sight of the coaching team, headed by Kieran McKenna, sprinting through the streets on Tuesday evening had people grabbing for their phones as they walked to the Jigger Inn, a bar adjacent to the Old Course Hotel where Louis Oosthuizen celebrated his 2010 Open victory.
Wherever they go, United create a commotion, and Solskjaer is aiming to do the same next season. Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane have arrived, and the preseason program concluded with a 4-0 thumping of Premier League opponents Everton soon after they returned from Scotland.
St Andrews was selected as the starting point for the championship battle. The ascent to the summit begins right now.
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