By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Manchester United’s players have been taken to a golfing retreat in Scotland for the weekend to escape the title pressure, Goal.com can reveal.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to take his squad on a mini-break to his homeland because he is said to feel that some of the younger players “are on edge” as the battle for Premier League supremacy with rivals Manchester City hots up.
The United players and backroom staff were due to fly to Scotland on Friday and return on Sunday night, when they will head directly to the team hotel to prepare for Monday’s trip to Blackburn Rovers.
Sources have said that the players were told by staff to bring in their luggage to the training ground on Friday morning because they were going on a mini-break.
“Initially the players thought they might be going to somewhere exotic like Dubai,” a source told Goal.com. “But half the squad were told they were going to Gleneagles and the other half to St Andrews.
“Fergie wanted to keep the players guessing a bit because he wants complete isolation and for the trip to be away from the prying eyes of the media.
"The trip will involve a bit of training, some golf, and some rest and recuperation to relax the players ahead of the run-in"
Intriguingly, United sources say that it is unprecedented for Ferguson to take his players away for a mini-break at this stage of the title race.
“It is the first time in a title run-in that the manager has felt the need to take the pressure off like this,” a source added. “No-one has ever known anything like it. There was just a feeling among some of the staff that the younger players are on edge.”
The Fulham match on Monday, when United stuttered to a 1-0 victory after being fortunate not to concede a late penalty, was the first indication that some of the players may be starting to feel the pressure.
It comes at a time when increasingly terse words are being traded across Manchester between the two title-chasing clubs.
Patrick Vieira, Manchester City’s director of football development, has irked United in the last week by calling Paul Scholes’s return from retirement a “sign of weakness” before shifting the spotlight to the club’s treatment at the hands of referees.
Ferguson has hit back at the claim by saying City have enjoyed their own luck with decisions and suggesting the Frenchman is risking sanctions if he continues to talk about referees.