From the Premier League to Sunday League, the words 'pre-season' are enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine.
Though it’s a time infamous for its gruelling fitness work, it is a period many athletes need to psychologically prepare for the new season ahead.
But is it really that necessary?
In this article, we’ll look at how beneficial pre-season is, and why players should be brought in in time for it.
As the club's social media pages love to let us know, players often try and keep fit even whilst on holiday. Presumably, this comes with a sense of not wanting to suffer too much in pre-season, but it also allows players to change up their training methods.
Most videos we see of off-season training tend to be gym-based, in which players can focus on their athleticism. However, this can’t just be lifting weights, because as much as they may like to stray away from football-related exercises, specificity is a key aspect of training.
A recent example is Anthony Elanga, who is shown in the video below working on being more explosive. This is mainly done through plyometrics, which is a training method that involves exerting a maximal amount of force in short intervals, often involving movements such as jumping. This can be quite a fun way to train, and can also bring a player's fitness forwards leaps and bounds…literally.
It is also mentally beneficial as well. Players live and breathe football, in which training can become tedious, no matter how much fun the club's social media tries to show you. A famous example is Carlos Tevez, who has been said to do next to nothing in training but comes alive in matches, likely due to the excitement of a real game.
The repetition that comes with improving a skill on the training field can become boring, but a variety of different training methods can be used to prevent this. This is what often keeps players from becoming inactive in the lead-up to pre-season, preventing what happened to Eden Hazard, who reportedly put on around a stone after his move to Real Madrid.
By the time players return to training, which is planned to be today for the squad members that didn't go on international duty, players will likely have lost a lot of match fitness, no matter how much individual training they did. This return to team training is where the manager employs his tactics and gets the team used to playing with each other so that they can get off to the best start possible when the season begins.
According to Simon Mullock of the Mirror, the squad will be gaining match fitness by being put "through their paces with passing drills and exercises", often in double sessions, after an initial two days of medical/fitness testing. According to a source close to Ten Hag via the same article, "Ten Hag is all about training the brain...United’s players will do plenty of running - but they will run with the ball rather than just being asked to sprint up sand dunes.” This emphasises the importance of football-related drills in pre-season for players returning from holidays, especially now a new manager is in charge, though he would've liked to be joined by some new signings.
This importance is why it is almost impossible to scroll through social media without seeing a phrase such as, “we need to get players in for pre-season”- as new signings need time to adapt.
This is something the club have been poor on, with the prolonged lack of incomings this year being a microcosm of recent transfer windows. This has an infinite amount of negatives, including discontent amongst the fans and the new arrivals not settling in until well after the season has begun.
An illustration of this is the Frenkie de Jong deal, a signing who, like all others, would massively benefit from having his future at Old Trafford secured in time for pre-season.
Whether or not the club acknowledge the importance of getting signings in early is anyone's guess, but the reality is that an effective pre-season can leave players in a fantastic position to start the season strong, which has a hugely positive knock-on effect for the rest of the campaign.