Manchester United have engaged Ryan Giggs' yoga coach to work with their Academy students to establish who might be most susceptible to the muscle trouble which plagued him through the middle period of his career.
Sarah Ramsden, who has collaborated with Giggs on the new DVD in which he reveals his personal fitness regime, works for United and Manchester City though United are the club who, in search of the smallest competitive advantage, have asked her to work with their younger players. They are more susceptible to muscle stiffening and loss of mobility than older players because the step up to senior football creates immediate muscular challenges that their bodies are not equipped for.
"Their training volume will ramp up immediately, which means their muscles can stiffen, they suffer loss of mobility – permanently unless they do something about," said Ms Ramsden, who worked for clubs including Preston, Derby and Sunderland before the Manchester clubs engaged her in work which now takes up her entire working week. "It means that what comes into their head they can't make their bodies do any more, and they are suddenly less able to deliver their talent," she added. "It would be remiss to let that problem go and not deal with it."
Players susceptible to the kind of trouble which plagued Giggs will typically have short hamstrings and will be naturally tense, holding tension in their hamstrings. "We have spent years working on Ryan's hamstrings, straightening them out and we are way beyond that stage with him now," said Ms Ramsden, who was at work at United for much of yesterday.
Ms Ramsden, who cites the extraordinary flexibility she has discovered in David Silva at City as evidence of the way Spain trains their players in suppleness, believes that clubs which do so can get a lead on opponents.
"There are so few areas where you can get any advantage now," she said. "You are not going to make players faster or more powerful. Fastness [to a ball] is not just about running but about reach. You see that in a player like Gareth Bale: he has wonderful reach coupled with fantastic strength. There's a perception that the national football style will change, becoming more about fluidity and fast movement. That brings a need for flexibility of the kind the Spanish players show."