How’s the training going?
I’m in full training now with the lads. It would be ironic wouldn’t it, playing your last game here then coming back from injury and playing the next game here in the Charity Shield. But that’s still a week or so away. I’m in full training now and we’ve been waiting for the lads to come back from America. We’ve got a game in the middle, away in Ireland, so hopefully I can start getting some minutes on the pitch now.
How long does it take you to get match fit?
Obviously training every day helps, it’s almost when your away from the ball and away from training you lose your hand eye, or foot eye, co-ordination, so little things take time to come. Training helps that, and in terms of fitness, you can do all the running the world, and you need to do all the running in the world, but when it comes to playing a match it feels different. You can really feel yourself breathing after five or ten minutes when you’re not fit, so hopefully I can get a few minutes in Ireland and hopefully a few minuts here [in the Charity Shield] and build towards the season. I wouldn’t be ready to go in to 90 minutes straight away but it will be a stepping stone.
How are you enjoying it at United?
I love it. It was a fantastic move, a dream move for me. I’d obviously played at Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, so I’ve been away from home for five years with my last two clubs, so to come home, be able to live at home, and travel in to work half an hour every day to get to the training ground is fantastic for me and my family and then not to mention the sheer quality of the club. The players, the manager, everything about it, the club as a whole is just different to many other places. It’s a fantastic club and a fantastic place to be plying your trade and training with them players every day no doubt improves you.
United have brought in Hernandez. Is that a bad thing for you?
Well, of course it’s a good thing for the club. I’ve only seen bits of him in the World Cup and obviously he played his first game for United in the pre-season tour, and he looks like a good goalscorer. He’s young, it will be important he settles in to the English way of life as well as the English Premier League, so obviously the club will help him to do that. The manager tends to buy young players with a lot of potential and he tries to develop them. Obviously he’s worked his magic for many years doing that and so hopefully he [Hernandez] is another one. We have got a lot of good, young strikers now and hopefully they will compliment us.
Do you think there’s enough emphasis on youth in the Premier League at the moment?
Well, it’s hard to say. If you’re top quality, you’ll get through and get your chance. My fear is for the slow developers, or the players that are decent, solid professionals. I’m all for top foreign players coming over but it’s average players coming, taking the place of our lads, that’s where I see the problem. In fairness, that seems to be something the Authority is addressing. This coming year there’s a restriction and I hear it’s going to get more and more every season from now on, so hopefully that will improve our homegrown players, and in turn, improve the chances of our national team doing well.
How long do you think you can keep playing for?
To be honest, I don’t want to be playing until I’m forty-something, because I want to finish at the top. I don’t want to drop down levels, so I’d love to finish my career where I am. We’ll see if that happens. If I’m still feeling great and if the club didn’t want me any more and I was only 31, well there might be other good opportunities. But I certainly wouldn’t be dropping down and down to prolong my career. I’d want to quit while I was ahead. I’m 30 but because I started my career really early, everyone probably thinks I’m 35 by now, so a lot of people are surprised when I say I’m 30.
What’s it like playing for Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the all time greats?
If you look at the managers I’ve played under, there’s been quite a lot of top managers, but obviously, to have ended my career and not played under the most successful manager of our time would have left a gap, just like not winning the Premier League would leave a gap. There’s a couple of things in your career where you think “I’d love to do that” and when you’re looking from afar you’re thinking, “I wonder what his team talks are like, I wonder what it would be like to play under him, I wonder what it would be like to play in that team with Giggs and Scholes and all the players they’ve had over the years. So there’s been a lot of boxes ticked off from moving to Man United and it’s been fantastic.
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.