Manchester United will return to action on Monday feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, after the warm-weather training camp in Dubai that yielded physical and mental advantages.
That is the view shared by Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw, who have both spoken exclusively to ManUtd.com’s Adam Bostock ahead of the Premier League match against Stoke City at Old Trafford.
“I think the lads needed it,” Lingard explained. “It was a good mental break to clear your mind and to have a chilled time with the lads resting up. We worked hard in December and came through a lot of games so it’s always good to clear your mind. While saying that, we still worked hard out there. We were on the training pitch every day and going through the tactics for the game on Monday.”
Like Lingard, Shaw also believes the team has benefitted from a mid-season break in the sun.
“It was nice to spend time out there in different conditions and different environments,” Luke explains. “It was really good for the team and also good for the younger ones like Scott McTominay, Axel Tuanzebe and Kieran O’Hara who came to get to know the team more.
“We had stuff organised, we had dinners together and it was really good. We got some really good work done with the manager, some tactical work that we haven’t been able to do here because we don’t really get too much time game by game. This time we got quite lucky with the schedule and we managed to get a good few days’ work under our belts. Now we’re back and we go again.”
So what was Jose Mourinho specifically working on during those three intensive sessions out in Dubai?
“We were mainly focused on what we were doing with the ball,” says Shaw. “Not really defensively, it was when we have the ball, which areas we want to go to. It’s all about moving the ball quickly and he was getting that drummed into our heads. There were other pieces but I don’t want to talk too much about it! It was really good and enjoyable, but I lost both games out there so it wasn’t that enjoyable. It was a lot of fun and everyone had fun. Now everyone’s ready to go again.”
Both players are expected to start Monday night’s game against a Stoke side that is currently without a permanent manager, following the recent sacking of former United striker Mark Hughes.
“It’s a game where their players have got to impress,” said Lingard. “Obviously they’re going to have a new manager coming in soon so I think they’ve got to work 10 times as hard as they did before. That’s only right. We know the game will be tough, it’s always tough against Stoke. We have to go into the game in the right mentality and with the confidence we took from the last few games.”
Shaw also expects the Potters will have a point to prove at Old Trafford and that includes Darren Fletcher, the much-loved ex-Red who has recently found himself out of the starting XI.
“I’d be surprised to see him on the bench,” Luke admitted. “With the amount of experience he has of our team and obviously of the place, he’ll really want to play. I still think he’s an amazing player now. Whenever I’ve seen him play, he’s been unbelievable. It’ll be nice to see him, he’s a great person as well, but we want the three points so we’ll speak with him after we get the win.”