Kieran McKenna (right) was given a contract with Tottenham in 2002 when he was 16
Angel Gomes has been brushing up on his cooking skills while Brandon Williams has been making sure not to practise his tackling on his dog too much.
It is all part of the life of a Manchester United player as they keep busy – and keep fit – while waiting for an end to the coronavirus lockdown and a return to Premier League action.
United’s Northern Ireland-born first-team coach Kieran McKenna has revealed how the club’s staff are staying in contact with the squad during the lockdown – and what the players have been up to.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side – fifth in the Premier League when the season was suspended and coronavirus restrictions put in place – have not played since 12 March, when they beat Austrian club LASK 5-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie.
Solskjaer, coaches Michael Carrick and Mike Phelan, and other members of the management staff have been keeping in touch with players to make sure all is well.
“There’s contact going on all the time, be it from Charlie [Owen, fitness coach] myself or a doctor, or Ole, Michael [Carrick] and Mick [Phelan] are speaking to the players individually,” McKenna told the club website.
“I think it’s important they feel that sense of connection. I think they’re getting that in a lot of different ways, be that through the different social media avenues, or I’ve tried to ring quite a few – especially a few of the younger boys – to make sure they’re OK, and try to stop Brandon Williams tackling his dog on a regular basis!
“Angel Gomes tells me he’s having regular cooking lessons from his brother and Tahith [Chong] has been chipping in in the kitchen.
“I miss being on grass and the one-on-one with players but the biggest priority at the minute is that they keep safe and well.”
‘We may have a smallish window before an intense period of games’
McKenna, who is a former Northern Ireland Under-21 international from Fermanagh, joined Tottenham as a teenager but was forced to retire from playing when he was 23, because of a persistent hip injury.
He took coaching badges at Tottenham and was put in charge of their Under-18 side in 2015 before joining Manchester United the following year.
McKenna also managed United’s Under-18s but he now sits beside manager Solskjaer in the Old Trafford dugout, as part of the coaching staff planning ahead despite no return date for the Premier League or Europa League.
“All we can do is maintain a level of fitness in the players close to where they left off,” he added.
Angel Gomes was the first player born in the 2000s to make a Premier League appearance
“On a technical and tactical level, there are a few things we can do through video while the boys have been doing very well on their physical condition.
“We are preparing some hypothetical situations that may occur – we may come back and have a smallish window of a few weeks’ training before going into an intense period of games.
“We’re preparing for that and discussing what the build-up to that could look like. If were to return to some form of training, there may be some sort of social distancing and smaller groups.
“There is a lot unknown at the minute, so it’s just about planning and being prepared the best we can.”