When the Manchester United players headed to the Carrington briefing room for their first video analysis session with Erik ten Hag this summer, they would have immediately noticed the change.
The upstairs room at the training ground had been redesigned at a cost of around £200,000 on Ten Hag’s say-so. United were looking at plans in 2023 to make changes to the room, but they were brought forward when the new manager requested alterations.
The seating area is now tiered, giving every player a clear view of the screen and Ten Hag and his coaches clear sightlines to every player. The audio and visual equipment has also been upgraded to state-of-the-art.
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United refurbished the swimming pool area at Carrington in the summer, an area Cristiano Ronaldo had been particularly unhappy about on his return to the club in 2021. New ice baths, steam rooms and jacuzzis were installed with new tiling as well.
It’s certainly a legitimate argument that this kind of work is several years too late, that United are now making up lost ground on their rivals when it comes to facilities, but it’s also true that Ronaldo would have seen progress at Carrington himself over the last 15 months.
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There is more in the pipeline as well. United have appointed KSS as master planners for the long-term redevelopment of Carrington and they have recruited Mads Mernagh as programme director for the project. Mernagh was heavily involved in Leicester City’s new training ground, which set the gold standard in the Premier League when it was opened two years ago.
United are looking at various other improvements at Carrington, including the potential for building an accommodation block that would allow players and staff to stay on-site, as well as creating more casual areas for players to relax. The restaurant for the first team has also recently been upgraded.
It’s not only the men’s side of the training ground that has been improved. A new gym for the women’s team is being constructed, despite costs rocketing by £2million recently due to external global issues in the building trade.
The club have also facilitated the option for players to install the same equipment they find at Carrington at home, if they request it, with staff visiting the homes of two of the new signings from this summer to install gym apparatus.
Ten Hag’s fingerprints are already all over Carrington. In the huge strength and conditioning facility, a row of slogans adorn the walls, which weren’t necessarily drawn up by the Dutchman, but were run by him and given approval.
We are determined and resilient. We rise to the challenge. We never stand still. We are never beaten. We never give up. Those are the messages staring down at players when they work in the spacious facility.
This was part of the attraction for United in appointing Ten Hag this summer. They didn’t want an ‘island on his own’ as manager, as one club source put it. They wanted collaboration and the 52-year-old has his own ideas for the development of Carrington, as well as input on recruitment and various other issues.
United appointed Dominic Jordan as their first director of data science just over a year ago. That was again a case of following a trend rather than setting one, but it is an attempt to close the gap on some of their rivals. While the club are strengthening their data team, Ten Hag also insisted on bringing a trusted analyst with him from Ajax, overcoming doubts from some at Old Trafford by explaining the time it would save him.
There is a general acceptance that more needs to be done in and around Carrington, but the progress that has been made recently also explains why some at the club are frustrated at Ronaldo’s claim that “the progress was zero” in the last decade.