Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke about the need for his players to concentrate not just on their physical fitness during the coronavirus shutdown that has leagues across the world on hiatus, but also for the need to make sure players maintain their mental spirit as well.
“We shouldn’t forget these are players used to playing in front of thousands of people and training every day with their team-mates,” Solskjaer said to the Daily Mail via a videoconference from his home. “They’re missing that competition, so they’ve got to look after themselves, the mental health side, as well as the physical fitness. That’s one of the big things – just look after yourself and do what you can. I know loads of players are contributing financially and mentally, even just by ringing round and talking to different people and helping out.”
Plenty of studies have been done about how the lack of competition can affect recently retired players, and that same concern has clearly been conveyed by Solskjaer as he looks after his Manchester United players while the government orders everyone to stay in their homes.
In fact, he’s even told them to take a complete break from football to maintain their competitive spirit once the Premier League returns to action.
“Don’t even think about it,” Solskjaer said regarding his advice for Manchester United players on how much football to concentrate on, “because you can’t just focus on ‘I have to be ready in two-and-a-half or three weeks’ all the time. You need an off-period and I want them to have April more or less relaxed because, if we’re back in May, I want them really ready to work again.”
While that’s what he prefers his players’ mindset to be, he himself is keeping a close watch on the situation. “That’s the biggest challenge, probably, the unknown,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “Not knowing when we’re going to start. You want to hit it when you get going, but is it in six weeks’ time or is the league going to be starting at the end of May, mid-June, is it not going to start?”
But, while there are plenty of challenges for a coaching staff to manage, Solskjaer also takes positives. “The biggest difference for most of us is that when you’re a footballer you don’t really get to spend much time with your family. That’s been a big plus, if you’re allowed to say that anything has been a big plus in this situation.”