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Friday, November 16, 2007

Raise your game: Training

Ever tried to emulate your heroes but failed miserably? Fear not, for we’ve got top tips from the coaches who look after United’s stars day in, day out.

Here, first team coach Mike Phelan looks at improving training methods…

What would be your tip to anyone looking to improve their game?
Always have a ball at your feet. You’d be surprised how much your game can develop through having plenty of contact with the ball. It improves your concentration and even your fitness levels, because working with the ball is as much hard work as without it.

What’s the best way to approach training?
The most important parts are being organised, and making things fun and entertaining. The individual players must want to turn up and be part of the whole thing, and they will if they’re improving their game and enjoying themselves.

How much of a session should be devoted to fitness work?
You shouldn’t necessarily concentrate too much on the fitness side of things because it’s impossible to improve that in one session. So just be organised, set them out and get your point across of what you want them to do, and have fun.

When working with a squad, how should numbers be divided up?
If there is more than one player training, then work in pairs or fours, small numbers to maximise contact with the ball. If you’re working on your own, that’s not a problem because you’ll always have the ball at your feet. The most important thing is to train with the ball and master the skills that you can do, keep improving. A key thing to work on is keeping your head up rather than looking at the ball all the time. The ball never moves from your feet when you look up, just try to make sure that you get your head up and look all around you.

What are the best drills to work on?
The main things you have to master are the basic skills. That means passing, control with all parts of your body, heading and volleying. Sidefoot the ball, bend it with the inside and outside of your foot. The key is to practice them regularly, because that’s how you improve. Read more...

Cristiano: Praise is positive

Cristiano Ronaldo has welcomed Sir Alex's comments on the strength of United's squad.

In his United Review programme notes for Blackburn's visit to Old Trafford, the United boss said he believed the current crop of players could be his best yet.

"It's always good to hear praise from our manager, who, over the years, has coached several United teams," Ronaldo said. "If he says that then it's good for us, especially the new players. It's very positive."

Ronaldo's form has been central to United's unbeaten streak in the league, which now stretches back to mid-August. Indeed, the Portugal international has found the net 10 times already this season. And yet, some critics claim he's failed to ignite matches in the way he so often did during the 2006/07 campaign.

That kind of criticism doesn't bother Ronaldo. He insists he's playing well and only wants to continue his good form.

"I have scored some goals and played well," he said. "I always work to be the best, with the aim of improving every year on the weaker parts of my game. I’ve been in good form and now I’ve got to make sure I maintain this consistency." Read more...

Giggs running for no.10

Been there, seen it, done it. But Ryan Giggs' hunger for success remains undimmed. Having signed a new deal until 2009, the Welsh winger is full of ambiton and has his sights set on more trophies and Sir Bobby Charlton's appearance record...

Do you expect Arsenal to be United's main title rivals or will Liverpool and Chelsea stake a genuine claim?
I think all the big four teams are capable of going on good runs. Whoever can put a string of results together and handle suspensions and injuries later in the season will probably end up being champions. It might also come down to which of the big four can take the most points off each other.

Looking back on your trip to the Emirates, how disappointing was it to concede a late equaliser – did it feel like a defeat?
It did really because the three points were within our grasp and we were robbed of them at the death. But you’ve got to get on with things and if you look back at the game there last season when they scored a late winner, we’ve actually left with a better result this time round. They beat us twice last season and we came back well from both of those games. We need to do that again. The way we played gave us a lot of confidence.

Was the reaction of the Arsenal players at the end of the game a sign of the respect they hold for this United team?
Probably. Some of their players thought they’d won the game when the final whistle went. I’m not sure we would have celebrated like that if we’d have drawn at home, but I suppose they were excited to score so late on.

United's squad seems to be coping well with injuries…
Form-wise and position-wise everything is great. And it’s fantastic to have players coming back from injury. Gary [Neville] will be returning soon, Louis [Saha] is fit again and he’s really important for us. Lads like [Gerard] Piqué, Fletch [Darren Fletcher] and Simmo [Danny Simpson] have played an important part as well.

You've signed a one-year contract extension until June 2009 – was that pleasing?
It’s great to know I’ll be playing for another season after this one. I was pleased to get it sorted and it means I can just get on with my football and hopefully play well over the next 18 months or so.

What are your remaining playing ambitions?
Winning the Champions League again is definitely a big aim and it would be nice to win a 10th title. The main thing is just to enjoy my football but I suppose you only really do that when you’re winning trophies. So hopefully we can win some more.

The extension increases the chances of you surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time appearance record. How much pleasure would that give you?
It’ll be a great personal honour. To play so many games for the club you’ve supported and pass the total of probably the greatest player this club’s ever had would be brilliant. It’s something I don’t really like talking about until it’s happened, but given that the landmark is getting closer it would be great to do it!

Ryan was speaking to United Review before the Blackburn match.