Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford claims the squad are better prepared for the challenges of a new season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer than they were when Jose Mourinho was in charge.
Solskjaer will lead the Red Devils into their Premier League curtain-raiser with Chelsea on Sunday in what will be his first full campaign in charge at Old Trafford.
And it is his appointment, following a successful spell as caretaker boss between December and March last term, that Rashford believes has been key to the players’ fitness and mind-set this summer.
The England international, who is expected to play a significant role in attack now that Romelu Lukaku’s departure to Inter has finally been confirmed, will jockey for position with United’s new number nine Anthony Martial for the central striker spot.
And ahead of their showdown with the Blues, the 21-year-old says his fitness, along with the rest of his team-mates’, is much further advanced than it was this time last year under former boss Mourinho.
“It definitely feels different,” he admitted to Sky Sports.
“For starters, physically we’re at a much better position than we were this time last year, going into the season.
“We’re already three or four steps ahead of where we were last season, and now it’s about putting the fundamentals down about how we’re going to play.”
When asked to pin-point specifics when it comes to the differences between Solskjaer and Mourinho, he added: “I’d say the intensity change, from how we were towards the end of last season, to where we are now.
“It’s so clear to see the difference in terms of intensity, especially without the ball. That’s where we’ve taken a lot of strides forward.
“You learn different things under different managers. The time under (Louis) Van Gaal, it was perfect for me at that time to have a manager like that, he was patient with me and gave me time to learn the game. It wasn’t too much information thrown at me.
“Then under Jose I feel like we all understood the game a bit better, especially defensively. And now under Ole we’re trying to combine the two, and at the same time he knows the club for what the club is so he can spread his own messages too.
“For me it’s like it’s back to normal, and that is the most important thing. It’s been good. It’s been tough, but as a team I feel we’ve taken a lot of strides forward, so it’s been worth it.”