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“Opinions are divided…” – Mitchell van der Gaag explains Man United training approach amid injury blame



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Mitchell van der Gaag has previously detailed the way in which he believes Manchester United’s training sessions must be conducted.

Van der Gaag, 52, joined United in the summer of 2022 alongside Erik ten Hag. He was the Dutchman’s assistant at Ajax and works alongside Steve McClaren to support the manager at Old Trafford.

The pair are in charge of the squad’s training sessions at Carrington. Eric Ramsay also had important input before his mid-season move to MLS club Minnesota United.

United have experienced an unprecedented amount of injuries and illness this term, with 53 separate cases, and many of those have come from training or muscular problems.

Lisandro Martínez is the latest victim of this type of setback. The Argentina defender will miss another month of the season with a calf issue sustained at Carrington.

There has been much made of the behind-the-scenes preparation at the club, with some players reportedly unhappy with the training intensity under Ten Hag and his coaching staff.

Supporters are also beginning to question the approach – despite not being on the training ground to witness the work going on – simply because of the copious amount of injuries.

Before Ten Hag took over the reigns, his assistant Van der Gaag explained the approach they were planning to take in training, and admitted that it was a method that is questioned by some in the sport.

Speaking to Voetbal International in 2022, Van der Gaag explained: “I believe in a lot of training work. I’m not saying what I do is better or worse, but I believe that more training work makes you a better player. If you are physically strong, you will have more focus and sharpness.

“Of course, we don’t just have training sessions of more than two hours. There are also times when we start training shorter and more intensively. I believe that more training work makes you a better player.

“If you are physically strong, you will have more focus and sharpness. I notice that the boys who have been here for a while sometimes need to be stimulated. Sometimes they ask for that themselves. In terms of duration, it may seem long, but it is also a matter of getting used to. You can see that the players who were there last season are now used to it

“But new players still have trouble with the training work. I know that football fitness training is sometimes harder than the game. Opinions are divided on this, there are also specialists who think that this competition should be the peak in labour, but I happen to believe in this approach. I think that makes you better. I think the players are the best judge of it.”

Ultimately, while fans will not have the full story of how United train behind closed doors, it is fair to make the link between the well-reported – and Van der Gaag admitted – intense training approach and the injury crisis suffered this season.