A welcome feature of this pre-season has been the return of midfielder Josh Dixon to training, albeit non-contact at this stage, as he continues his recovery from an ACL repair.
Dixon, who was given an extended contract last summer, came through the youth ranks with United two summers ago but missed out on his first year as a professional when he picked up a nasty knee injury during a training session ahead of that campaign.
Having now returned to the sessions, manager Chris Beech spoke about the 19-year-old at his press conference last week.
“His attitude is excellent,” he said. “His passing capabilities are beyond others of his age. It must have been very exciting to see him as a 17-year-old.
“He’s the sort of player I get really excited about. I’ve dealt with a lot of youth players prior to the last six or seven years of working in first-team environments. He’s a player I would have got really excited about.”
“He has some real abilities, looking at him now,” he continued. “At the moment he’s a spare man in training, nobody can tackle him, but it’s better than just going in the gym.
“He’s hopefully about a month off being able to tackle and regain the ball. In football that’s a vital aspect of playing. I know Josh, when he gets back at that he has to work at that anyway.
“Unfortunately the timings mean he will miss the friendlies and that’s a shame, because this would have been a great time for him.
“He’s done his thigh and hamstring test and he has a 14 per cent difference, and that’s got to be almost zero after the long injury he’s had. So, he needs to work that hamstring, and he is, constantly. Then we’ll be able to push him on.”
And those possession traits mentioned are something that has been evident within the team during their pre-season friendlies played against Fleetwood, Gateshead and Wigan.
“That has been good to see, but I want more,” he insisted. “I want more control to that, but the most important thing is a will, energy and ambition in the player.
“Even if you get things wrong, if you have that inside you, you tend to come out on top. That’s an important trait to always hold on to, hard work and honesty.
“In terms of passing and keeping the ball, I want more penetration and I’ll always want more. You could probably speak to Jurgen Klopp and he’s probably searching for perfection every day. It’s just how you are in this game.”
“It’s just about standards,” he continued. “Often in football, physically you don’t change because once you get to match fit, you’re there.
“You’re game ready and robust because you’ve played half a dozen fixtures. Once you’re at that point, what changes from Saturday to Saturday? Nothing really, other than your mindset.
“We’ve got to hit consistent traits, and I often say that I look at other sports all the time. Do boxers or cyclists actually get better? Or do they stay consistent? Are they getting better or are other competitors tapering away?
“I call them unforced errors and we have to reduce those as much as we can. Things we can control, we have to, for the better of everybody. You’d be surprised at the positive outcomes of reducing those little unforced errors.”