Manchester United assistant coach Michael Carrick has emphasised the importance of players' mental welfare as the club steps up its training programme.
While the United Kingdom remains in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, discussions are ongoing over the possibility of concluding the Premier League season when it is safe to do so.
Though bans on professional sport in France and the Netherlands has forced the cancellation of the Ligue 1 and Eredivisie campaigns, the Bundesliga will restart later this month, while La Liga is aiming for a return to action in June.
United has now made remote training sessions for players – previously optional – compulsory, though Carrick, an assistant to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford, acknowledges that the mental health of the players is a priority.
'Part of family'
"Primarily, we're talking about getting back to fitness and playing games but also it's about if they're okay [psychologically]," he said on MUTV .
"Like all of us, you want to make sure your friends and families are okay. The players are, obviously, part of our family and we want to make sure that, as humans, they're all right and then the sport and lifestyle can come after that.
"At the start, we left the lads alone [doing their own fitness routines] because we were quite relaxed about it and could probably sense that it could be a good few weeks or months [before the team was back training together].
"We were conscious of not being too intense with them at the start and then gradually increased it as we go along. As of this week, they're now on compulsory sessions.
'Staying in touch'
"It's good and we're just desperate to come back. They're looking forward to getting back to what they know best. We're just staying in touch and seeing what's next, like everyone else."
Carrick added the uncertainty surrounding a potential restart is still an issue, despite the club doing what they can to maintain some form of normality. "That's the biggest challenge: not really having a return date," said Carrick.
"That's why we've tried to gradually increase training and we're just giving ourselves the best chance to be ready, if, and when, we start. It's the same as everyone - it's not just about us and the players; it's about everyone, in every walk of life. Everyone has got jobs to go back to and not knowing is the biggest issue. You can't plan and you're not sure what's next."
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