Jose Mourinho and the Manchester United players have left behind the bleak January weather of England for the much sunnier climate of Dubai (albeit after initial showers!) to complete a five-day training camp.
Here are five reasons why the mid-season trip could have a big impact on the squad and the remainder of the campaign…
1: A CHANCE TO REST AND RECUPERATE
We know there is little sympathy for footballers playing too many games and, as Phil Jones recently said: “We don’t want fans to get the violins out”. But United’s festive schedule was clearly brutal. The team had nine matches in December and last Friday’s 2-0 win over Derby County ended a run of five games across 14 days, which is undeniably punishing on the body. As such, this journey to the Middle East is perfectly-timed.
Club legend Sammy McIlroy told us this week: “A bit of winding down will do them good. The Christmas schedule really takes its toll and, after some warm-weather training, they’ll be well prepared for Stoke.”
2: INJURED PLAYERS CAN BUILD FITNESS
The players flew from Manchester Airport on Monday morning and club captain Michael Carrick was among those boarding the plane. He has been missing for several months due to a heart problem that required surgery, but is slowly building his fitness and this trip will certainly benefit him.
Marouane Fellaini has also travelled, fresh from making his return from a long-term absence with a cameo apperance against Derby. He’ll be determined to have an impact in the second half of the campaign.
3: AN INJECTION OF VITAMIN D
We love Manchester and all that it has to offer, but even we know the weather isn’t exactly glorious at this time of the year and musician Ian Brown was right when he observed the city has “everything except a beach”. Dubai, of course, has plenty of those and we’re reliably informed the water is even heated (fancy!). Three days of sunshine will do the players no harm, partly as they’ll have golden tans, but also because vitamin D is scientifically proven to aid muscle recovery.
“It’s kind of weird,” wrote Juan Mata in his weekly blog on Monday. “After a long time with games every three or four days, it comes in good timing for the whole team to spend time together and work in that area of the world with such a good climate, especially in a month like January.”
4: WE CAN ACTUALLY TRAIN
Amid the madness of the fixture list, Mourinho had very little chance to work with the squad on the pitches at the Aon Training Complex. Instead, they were travelling to matches or focusing on recovery by completing lighter sessions. As such, the boss is excited to get back out there this week to work on tactics.
Ahead of travelling, the manager told MUTV: “If we can have time to have a good, nice week to recover some injured players and tired players and, at the same time, work on some tactical details, then I think it would be good for the second part of the season.”
5: A MASSIVE BOOST TO MORALE
Let’s get things straight: the players are in Dubai to work hard all week, but a trip abroad naturally has massive benefits for a group’s togetherness. That is inevitable when you spend all day, every day with one another, living in each other’s pockets, eating together and socialising in free time. In the intense world of Manchester United, team spirit is huge and Jose will be all too aware of that this week.