14 Jan Manchester United shelve plans for winter training camp in Middle East
Manchester United have scrapped a planned winter training camp in the Middle East due to fears over tensions in the region.
United have been frequent visitors to the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex in Dubai in recent years, and were looking to use the upcoming winter break in the Premier League for another warm-weather camp.
But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed those plans have now been shelved in the wake of the United States’ assassination of Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani.
The assassination has led to a series of subsequent events, including the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet as it left Tehran last week, killing all 176 people on board.
“If there’s one thing that worries me, it’s not on the football pitch,” Solskjaer said. “It’s other things that worry me more.
“We were looking at the Middle East but that’s definitely not going to happen.”
The manager indicated he would instead give his players some time off to spend alone during the winter break, which will follow United’s home match against Wolves on February 1.
“I’m going to give them a few days off, so I don’t know where they’ll all scatter around but we’ll stay in Europe.”
Solskjaer sees the mid-season break, newly introduced this season, as being vital for his players after an intense run of games.
With United still competing on four fronts, Wednesday’s FA Cup third-round replay against Wolves at Old Trafford will be their 15th game in 49 days, and the number will reach 19 in 66 days by the time they meet again at the start of February.
“I think the mid-season break is very, very important for everyone,” he said.
“We’ve got five or six games now until then, we’ve just got to stick at it, hang in there until then, get the performances and the results that we hope we’re going to get, and then use that to get some vitamin D.”
United’s resources have been tested this season following the departure of a number of experienced players in the summer coupled with injuries, thrusting younger players into a much-increased role.
The winter break will be welcome for the likes of Marcus Rashford and Daniel James, who have faced a relentless fixture list and will expect it to continue into the summer with their national teams.
However, Solskjaer is not overly concerned about burnout.
“I hope it gives them extra experience,” he said of the schedule. “For me, with the young (Paul) Scholes and (Ryan) Giggs, the more games they played, the better they became. That’s the hope.
“Of course if you get better results that will speed up the process and it builds up the self-esteem and the confidence they get.”
And, while Solskjaer offered no update on talks to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon, he said the performances of several youngsters convinced him the squad does not need a major overhaul.
“This is a group you can work with,” he said. “They’re going to give you everything. That’s the core of what the team is going to be moving forward, for me.
“Of course we’re looking at a couple of signings and strengthening here and there but the core group is there.”