JOHN O’SHEA is hoping to steer clear of an injury nightmare next season as Manchester United attempt to regain their Premier League title from Chelsea.
O’Shea reflected on a dark December which saw the club lose two of their six league games.
United went down 1-0 at home to Aston Villa and then suffered a 3-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage. Those setbacks came during a spell which saw manager Alex Ferguson suffer major disruption as he was without seven injured defenders.
O’Shea had a thigh problem while Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Jonny Evans, Rafael, Wes Brown and Fabio also had a spell on the sidelines.
In addition Nemanja Vidic was laid up with flu and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar needed treatment as well. So strapped were United in that area that Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick played out of position.
O’Shea said: “Injuries were a key factor last season and we hope to avoid them this time around. I can never remember so many defenders being injured. But we still got so close to retaining the title – only a few lapses of concentration let us down in the end. Now we are all hungry to succeed again.”
The players have been training twice a day in difficult conditions with temperatures here rising above 30 Celcius.
Not that O’Shea is complaining, however. “It is hard but not as hard as it was in years gone by, mind you,” said the Republic of Ireland international.
“It is more personalised now, which is down to the sports science staff. A good pre-season is so important.”
The squad trained at Philadelphia Union’s soccer-specific stadium last night ahead of the friendly with the new MLS side later today.
That match is taking place at Lincoln Financial Field as it has a far greater capacity. Ferguson said: “The training facilities are excellent in the United States, certainly in Philadelphia. We are here for five days and everything is first class.
“We hope we get what we want out of the tour – that is the fitness of the players – and come out of it without serious injuries.
“We want to get the rhythm of our game before the season starts,” the manager said.
Ferguson could be tempted to give Nani a run-out after the Portugal winger’s recovery from a dislocated collar-bone.
Nani said: “For me it is a great opportunity to gave a have very good pre-season. That is the most important thing. Also it is always pleasure to play a new team.”
Union have secured back-to-back victories against Toronto and Neil Lennon’s Celtic after a difficult start in this their first season in MLS. Ferguson added: “While we concern ourselves about our fitness we do our homework as best we can.
“Union are a competent team with a lot of energy in midfield thanks to their young players. They also show freedom of movement up front.”
Union manager Peter Nowak said: “It is a great feeling for an expansion team to go against a prestigious club.
“This is what we need to gain experience as a team – to get together and play very well. It is a learning process.
“This is when you gain experience. This is when you measure what you need and what kind of work needs to be done.”
Meanwhile United’s Republic of Ireland midfielder Darron Gibson has briefly returned home from the club’s tour of North America after the death of his grandmother.
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