Saturday 26th October 2013
Predictions can often be wrong and meaningless – why, if we could pinpoint the future, we could all make a fortune – and although I personally feel Manchester United will not retain their league title this season, it doesn’t mean they won’t, even if they have made a stuttering start to the campaign.
Apart from having the championship winning side of 2013 at his disposal, another factor that will help decide the fate of David Moyes’ side will be their fitness levels. Sounds obvious, really, as all teams will be relying on their stamina throughout the season. But under Moyes, United could well stand out from the rest.
It’s well know how gruelling his training regimes can be, particular in the summer months. Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and co have already come out and said that the Scotsman’s sessions are more intense than Alex Ferguson’s. Rooney hit some incredible heights as a player under Ferguson, but as his former manager pointed out this week when promoting his book, Rooney needed to work harder than most to remain in peak condition. Could his recent resurgence in form be down to Moyes and his training methods? Being happy and settled with his place in the team has undoubtedly helped, also.
New Manchester United first-team coach, Phil Neville, provided a low-down of these methods two years ago while playing under Moyes at Everton. They included being plunged into freezing rivers, running up sand dunes until the players are at a standstill, and sharp running in rivers covering distances between 100metres and 300m in what they called ‘the horse shoe’. Neville has known players to be sick through all the physicality, but as he said, ‘‘no team will ever out-run us.’’
This is perhaps why Moyes’ Everton sides often did so well in the final months of a season, because they built up the energy to cope with the physical demands that the nine month season inevitably brings (11 months if you count pre-season training). Whether all this exertion knackered them out for the early parts of a campaign (Everton were often notoriously slow starters under Moyes) is open to debate.
The urges and ambushes on the opposing team’s goal in the latter stages of a game that were so synonymous under Alex Ferguson are not happening. But the training routines should bode well for the end of season slog when their rivals could be caught napping while United’s players are still charging around the pitch. Eight points behind the leaders Arsenal may sound a lot, but it’s hardly anything when you take into account that there are still 30 league games left to play, and that Manchester City overcame the same deficit in their last six games of the 2011-12 campaign to win the title.
It shouldn’t bother Man United too much that they’re in the position they’re in at the moment. They’ve had tougher games than any of the top seven so far. They may well be out of the title race by March, April or May, but the undoubted stamina gained from those training sessions could certainly work towards winning a cup competition or two. Or three.
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