United's appliance of science
Published 22/01/2011 | 05:00
Manchester United's attempt to reclaim the Premier League title is being bolstered by cutting-edge technology which includes GPS tracking of the players, zero-gravity rehabilitation and vitamin D beds.
In a revealing access-all-areas documentary by MUTV, the club's in-house television channel, 'Ryan and Rio -- Carrington Revealed' sheds light on the behind-the-scenes operation at United's 108-acre Carrington training centre.
United are due to invest £11m in a new sports science and medical facility at Carrington later this year.
And with Alex Ferguson's squad given individual programmes and daily computerised data on their training performances, midfielder Ryan Giggs -- who has confirmed his intention to sign a new one-year contract -- admits that the attention to detail ensures that the players' every move is now monitored and analysed.
"With all the stats that you get, you can't hide," Giggs said. "You can't duck out of training or not work hard because it's all monitored.
"We all have private programmes, so you get your clipboard and they monitor what you do every day. If you're not working hard on a regular basis, you will get extra running or extra weights to make up for it."
United became the first Premier League club to adopt the GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking device last season.
Worn in training vests, the GPS tracker enables United's sports science researcher, Robin Thorpe, to give an individual rundown of each player's performance stats following training at Carrington.
"We wear heart-rate monitors to test how hard we are working, and also the GPS devices. The GPS goes in the back, with the heart-rate monitor underneath," said Giggs.
"They show us how far we have run in training, what the intensity was like, how quick we have been. You can go into the sports science department after training and you can find out your data more or less straightaway.
"In the morning, the sports scientists will tell us what we are doing. After a game, they will put up the running that we have done compared to the other team -- the distance we have covered, intensity etc. It's interesting."
Inside the first-team dressing-room, Ferguson's squad utilise ice baths and the vitamin D bed -- similar to a walk-in sunbed -- almost daily.
"The tubes have been altered slightly, so it is purely for vitamin D. The players, particularly the dark-skinned players, have a programme whereby they build up their vitamin D," said Garry Armer, a United masseur.
"The black players don't tend to absorb vitamin D as much, so they go on this. They go in for four or five minutes after training, about three times a week."
United's scientific approach is not unique in the Premier League. Bolton Wanderers, under Sam Allardyce, regularly used deep-freeze refrigeration technology on their players, with eye coaches and Tai Chi also adopted at the Reebok.
Ferguson has often credited his former assistant, Carlos Queiroz, with introducing futuristic methods at United, however, and Giggs admits that the treatment of injured players has moved on since his debut in 1991.
"When I started, you would get treatment, have a bit of ice and go home," he said. "But now, you are working a couple of days after being injured. The gravity-free treadmill is great, especially if you have an ankle injury or something similar because you don't apply downward pressure.
"You just jump on to it, fasten the zips around you and then get in. It's like being on the Moon, apparently -- it's running, but it makes you float.
"There is an underwater treadmill, where you can get your running action back quickly because, in the water, you can run as hard as you want.
"There are cameras underneath the pool which monitor your foot pattern, to make sure that you're not limping. There's no escape!"
Training preparation begins with a 15-minute bike session, followed by a stint on the 'Get Back' mat -- a giant Twister mat -- aimed at boosting movement and co-ordination.
"You stand in front of the TV and different circles light up," said Giggs. "When they light up, you have to get on to them as quickly as you can."
Giggs' adoption of yoga as part of his fitness routine has been followed by team-mates Darren Fletcher and Rio Ferdinand. However, the 37-year-old admits that relaxation is also a key aspect of the work done by United's players at Carrington.
"The day after a game, it is all about relaxing," he said. "We'll go on the bikes for 15 minutes, have a stretch and then have a float in the deep-water pool, with maybe some weights."
Computerised analysis of opponents, via the ProZone system, takes place in a room off-limits to Ferguson's squad, but Ferdinand insists that this is the department which gives United the edge on the pitch.
"They've got square eyes in there," said Ferdinand. "But it's where all the magic happens." (© The Daily Telegraph, London)
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