Golf simulators, Uno and pool tournaments: Inside Man Utd's pre-season training camps

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It was a little over a week ago that the residents of the Scottish town of St Andrews began to realise that they were about to host some as-yet unknown VIP visitors.

Most famous for being the home of golf, St Andrews is no stranger to having sporting celebrities in attendance, but the screens that had started to be erected around the local football pitches suggested this was something a little different.

As it turned out, this was all preparation for the arrival of Manchester United, with the Red Devils heading north of the border for their second training camp of pre-season.

Previous United summer tours have seen them visit exotic locations such as Los Angeles, Miami, Shanghai, Perth, Singapore and Chicago. With Covid-19 travel restrictions firmly in place, it has been a pre-season with a difference for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

And so while St Andrews might not have the same high temperatures as those far flung destinations, it is hoped it will have the desired effect for United. 

Despite the secretive nature of the team's arrival in Scotland, they were still greeted by a handful of supporters when checking in to their St Andrews hotel on Monday, with Solskjaer and Jesse Lingard among those who stopped for photographs with fans.

That crowd slowly swelled as news of United's presence spread, with a larger group who visited the hotel on Tuesday able to catch sight of Paul Pogba making his entrance.

The France international has flown back to the UK from Miami following a post-European Championship family holiday, and has eased back into pre-season during his first 24 hours back with his team-mates.

While the bulk of United's squad underwent a gym session on Tuesday afternoon, Pogba could be seen being put through his paces on the outdoor pitches, as a member of the team's coaching staff eased him through some jogging drills.

Pogba did then join up with the rest of the team for some ball-work exercises, which a handful of locals managed to get a view of while standing on a nearby wall.

West Ham trained in the town around a month ago, and though security is tighter for United than it was when fans could get close access to David Moyes and his players, some residents have learned from that experience to find the few vantage points that provide a view of the training pitches.

On those pitches, it has been business as usual for Solskjaer, as his side step up their preparations for the new campaign.

The group in St Andrews includes recently-returned first-team regulars Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, David de Gea and Pogba, who are all linking up for the first time having been allowed extended holidays following their international commitments. 

The youngsters who had been a key part of Solskjaer’s pre-season up until this point, including the impressive teenager Anthony Elanga, have not been seen as the squad have been working in Scotland. 

While it has been hard work on the pitch, with plenty of running drills and tactical work to get through, it has been a lot more chilled and relaxed off it. 

During their first training camp of the summer in Surrey, United's players and staff competed in a pool tournament, which was won by one of the kitmen, while they passed the hours in the evening playing Perudo and Uno.

In Scotland, they also have access to a swing simulator in their hotel, which is allowing them to (virtually) play some of the best golf courses in the world.

The two camps have given the team time to bond, although their two new team-mates, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, are not yet with them. 

Solskjaer Sancho Varane Manchester United GFX

Solskjaer, fresh off signing a new three-year contract, has cut a relaxed figure throughout pre-season. He is happy with the signings the club have agreed, and is particularly pleased at the speed in which they were conducted.

Now, with the vast majority of his squad back, he has 10 more days to make sure they are ready for the season opener against Leeds United. 

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The squad will train for two more days in Scotland before flying home on Thursday for their final friendly of pre-season on Saturday, when they take on Everton. Then, it is the final countdown. 

Euro 2020, Copa America and the Olympics mean Solskjaer has not yet been able to work with a full complement of players, but even with those absentees, this summer’s camps have helped put them miles ahead of where they were this time last year, when they had played just one friendly against Aston Villa.

Now the Norwegian will be hoping that it translates into a strong start to the campaign.