The United squad reported back for their first pre-season training session on Thursday morning and their warm-up in the gymnasium took a familiar turn as a debate raged over the relative merits of two of the world’s best footballers, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Midfielder John O’Sullivan was firmly in the Messi camp, but we rescued him from the argument to get his thoughts on what’s to come for the players over the course of the next few weeks.
Speaking first about the exchange of opinions which carried on in the background, he said: “One of the things we have at this club is a real togetherness in the dressing room. We’ve all been away for a break and we’ve literally come back in and picked up where we left off with daft little arguments and things like that.
“It gets things going and it helps everyone to settle down and get on with it. We all get on really well and it’s nice to see the hotheads in the group voicing their opinion in a good way.”
The first few weeks of July always bring a mix of running and football practices as the players build up towards full match fitness and he admitted that it’s a period to be faced head on, with teeth fully gritted.
“I’ve been doing pre-seasons with first team squads since I was 16 so I know what to expect,” he commented. “I don’t enjoy it but it’s one of those things you have to do to make sure you’re ready to go. Fortunately I’ve been able to come in to the club over the summer and hopefully that’ll help me with what’s to come over the next few weeks.
It felt like I finished the season really well, particularly through the last month, and I just want to continue where I left off ...
“It felt like I finished the season really well, particularly through the last month, and I just want to continue where I left off. I want to give myself the best chance possible to do as well as I can this season and this is all part of that.
“I’d say there is a bit of nervousness as you head into these training sessions because you never know what to expect. Like I said earlier, you don’t have to be happy about it but you do just have to get on with it.
“It’s all about being ready for that first game. It’s always one of the biggest of the season and the club hasn’t had a home game to start things off for a while. We obviously want to get a win but we’re still miles off even thinking about it properly. We have the pre-season games and the business of getting fit to deal with first.”
As to what the squad wants to achieve this year, he said: “We made it to the play-offs last year and our ambition this year is to improve. The manager has already made some good signings and there’ll be more to come.
“I know Kelvin [Etuhu] and I’ve seen Hallam [Hope] and it’s great that we’re signing really good players. The gaffer has said he wants a few more and that’s only going to add to the quality we already have here. With that in mind who knows what we can do.
“We want to see quality players all over the park because the more competition for places we have the better it is for all of us. It means you have to perform to keep your place. I did end last season well in my opinion so I just want to carry that on.”