With ‘Project Restart’ moving along slowly, the latest update saw all 20 Premier League clubs vote unanimously to return to training, albeit in small groups. Players and coaches will also get tested for the coronavirus during the week as they resume training, with anyone with a positive test needing to self-isolate for seven days, in line with the medical protocols which have been laid down for the Premier League to resume.
Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England striker, is one of the players who has thus now resumed training, which is crucial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as Rashford was spearheading United’s push for a Champions League spot before he picked up a serious back injury in January.
This enforced break from football has allowed Rashford to recover and be able to play a part in United’s remaining fixtures, if they are conducted as planned as of now from June onwards. The striker had suffered a double stress fracture in his back, leading to criticism towards Solskjaer for playing him in that FA Cup game against Wolves, despite admitting just a week earlier that the striker was already carrying a minor injury.
Nevertheless, Rashford was seen training with a United coach earlier this week, while other players such as Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Luke Shaw have all also been pictured arriving at United’s training complex at Carrington, and undergoing the tests for the coronavirus from their cars before entering.
The current schedule will see the players train in groups of six, and if there are no positive tests for the virus, they can then move on to training as a team within two weeks, with a view to restarting the season from mid-June.
Of course, the lack of football has come as a big blow to fans, especially as the season was suspended towards the business end of the calendar, with the race for the European spots and the relegation battle all in the balance.
There have been quite a few initiatives taken to provide some form of entertainment to fans, with FIFA tournaments between players proving to be quite popular, to cite one example. Other measures have included a rise in sports-related online games, both regular and gambling-oriented, with some of the best online casinos having a variety of football-themed games to keep people occupied. There have also been advancements in technology, as augmented-reality (AR) headsets and content have come on in leaps and bounds, potentially allowing fans to see live matches when they resume as if they are actually in the stadium, but from the comfort and safety of their homes.
This is quite an exciting development, as it will allow fans to have some sort of matchday experience, which is important as it looks unlikely that spectators will be allowed into stadiums well into 2021.
At present, fans are hoping that the clubs’ return to training passes off without too many hitches, to allow them to resume the season and bring football back to our screens, even if this has to be done behind closed doors.