Manchester United Club Interviews
While coaching at MUFC, Mike was interviewed on many occasions. Here we have three of the interviews that were given to the club reporters during his decade there.
Coming on Strong (Interview with MUNews from 2001)
Mike Clegg, United's Power Development Coach, is the man trusted with getting the squad fighting fit. How does he do it?
How often do players come into the gym?
"they don't come in every day because there are a lot of different scenarios if they are doing rehab, if it's the day after a game, the day of a game... Each day's very different.! would think every player comes in twice a week - that's what I'd recommend.
Is each player given a different workout?
Very much so. We keep a record of each player's fitness but I know more in my head - each player is so individual here that you need to be able to know what they should be doing straight away. I like to think I know the fitness of all the players - right down to the Under- 17s very, very well.
Who's the fittest?
You can't really compare the fitness of players in different positions. For example there are full backs with amazing pace who can make a sprint right at the end of a match, while generally midfielders cover every single blade of grass during a game but don't do as many quick sprints.
What are the key exercises? Mainly running and weights?
Not at all. There are so many different exercises, like boxing and reaction work. We also try and build up their upper-body strength to help them fend off challenges. When they are injured we work more on strength, which is difficult to concentrate on when they're playing matches - so when they regain fitness they can be stronger and fitter than before they were injured!
"Players can get to the peak of fitness but there's nothing they can do in the gm on a par with playing week in, week out. And until a player emerges into a match situation, where winning is everything and the pressure is enormous, there's no way of gauging how well he'll maintain his performance over a gruelling 90 minutes - in other words, how 'match fit!” he is. Having said that, the pressure to perform can in itself help speed players along: with millions watching, there's no shortage of motivation for players to push themselves onto levels which you'll not see in any gym."
How can the players increase muscle and strength without losing their pace?
Haven't you seen Linford Christie? Increased muscle doesn't slow a player down. If anything, he'll improve his speed. It's just doing the right exercises at the right time and realising that there's no point in doing too much too quickly. I advise the overload training principle: overload a little hit and then rest, then overload and rest. Gradual improvement is the key.
Do the players enjoy the gym work?
If a player isn't enjoying a workout or routine I change it immediately because he isn't going to get anything out of it. That's not to say that every player loves doing every single exercise, but if he can feel the benefit he's going to work hard at it.
Is there a link between age and fitness?
Age does play a part but only because a player will think "I can't do this any more" and loses the motivation to train as hard. And the boss would spot that. I think you can maintain a very high degree of fitness to quite a ripe age if there's the motivation. This is one of my pet things - with me being older than the lads. I'm going to motivate them to maintain and enhance their fitness levels by working with me, and as I'm 44 there's no excuses!
A Cup of Tea with Mick Clegg (Interview with MUNews from 2009)
Next up, we speak to strength and conditioning coach Mike Clegg who is entrusted with the physical development of every player...
Morning Mike. So tell us about your role at the club?
My base is the Carrington gym
and my job really is just to be available whenever anyone wants me. I deal with the first team, the Reserves and the Academy lads and it’s up to me to provide the right type of indoor training for their outdoor needs.
How important is the work the players do in the gym?
It's never going to be as important as that done on the
pitch, but more and more players are putting time and effort into their gym work to help build up their strength because it can have such a big effect on the field. All of our lads are very dedicated to the gym side of their training, but it’s important to get the right balance between the work done on the training pitch and in here. It’s my job to look after the gym part and make sure the players do the absolute right amount because it’s very easy to do too much. They all have their own personal training plans and I work closely with [fitness coach] Tony Strudwick and his team to help ensure those plans get the best out of each player.
We hear football and United in particular has always been a big part of the family…
Well, I’ve been a United fan since I was born and two of my sons, Michael and Stephen, were both players at the club as youngsters. We’ve had a family gym in Ashton-under-Lyne for 25 years so we’re all fitness fanatics! All of my five kids now coach or are involved in our gym. Michael is Sunderland’s fitness coach, while Stephen is working part-time at the club with me. The work I did with my two lads during their time at United actually helped me get the job here. They weren’t the most skilful players, but they were very powerful, strong guys. They were both small full-backs, so they needed that extra strength that I’d help them develop at the gym. The club recognised the work I'd done with them and [head physiotherapist] Rob Swire brought me in on an occasional basis from February 2000, before I joined as a permanent member of staff.
What’s the best thing about the job?
Without question it’s seeing the development of a player as a youngster all the way through to the first team. And I’ve been lucky enough to work with quite a few who have achieved that feat. I came midway through the careers of the likes of Ryan [Giggs], Gary [Neville] and Paul [Scholes], but I’ve been here since Danny Welbeck joined the club and he’s doing brilliantly, and I’ve seen the fantastic progress made by players like Fletch, John O’Shea and Wes [Brown].
As well as working with the players, Inside United readers saw how you also put some members of the editorial team through a session at your gym…
They were all very brave! It was tough, but I wanted to give them something different to the training they’d been doing - there’s no point pussyfooting around! I made sure I told them exactly what they had to do beforehand and allowed them to do as much as they felt they could; how much they pushed themselves was down to them. They all did great and I’d certainly give them 10 out of 10 for effort.
Mick Clegg's Recipe For pain (Interview with MUNews from 2008)
THE WRITERS' VOYAGE TO FITNESS MOVES OUT OF CARRINGTON AND INTO THE REAL WORLD A WORLD OF AGONISING PAIN...
It's a horrible moment when you reach breaking point. It's worse still when you reach it in a pitch-black stairwell in a converted mill in the middle of Ashton- Under-Lyne, writes Steve Bartram.
At the top of the staircase, a booming voice mocks: No stopping! What do you think this is, Carrington?" It's official: our fitness challenge has gone hardcore. Having sat ourselves the task of jumping through the same hoops as United's players, we asked the Reds' strength and conditioning coach Mike Clegg to put us through our paces.
We foresaw another sapping session in the Carrington gym. Mick had other ideas. By day at his base at the Trafford training Centre, Mike deals with every play on the Reds' books, giving them personalised Programmes to enhance and maintain their physical strength. "Come to my gym and i'll put you through the session of your life" read his email, before 10 exclamation marks suggested impending doom!
The last time one of our writers met Mick was to piece together his ManUnited.com profile. Upon learning of a background that consisted of weightlifting and boxing, our man suggested that Mike could, if required, destroy anybody he liked. "I can handle myself," he smiled. 'the man is among the most affable you could meet, but you just know he could tear your head clean off if the mood look him. Back to Ashton, where Ben, James and Steve are met by a beaming Mike, who swiftly introduces us to two of his sons - Mark and Shaun - and re-introduces us to the stairs we'd just climbed. "We've got great stairs here," he grins." You'll like them."
Mike's initial email had warned us of an authentic 'spit and sawdust' gym and he wasn't lying. Peeling paint, battle-scarred machinery and not a mirror in sight, it couldn't be further from Carrington, but its muscle-bound occupants raise no doubts over the gym's ability to product athletes. "I thought about showing you what I'd do with the players, but then I decided not to," proffers Clegg "this is the real world, right here. So, welcome to the real world." Almost an hour later, with sweat pouring and limbs shaking, we reach the spine-chilling finale of Mike's introduction to reality, an eight-rep circuit that forces each of us to negotiate 64 flights of stairs, eight laps of the gym and the different exercise station each time.
The flooding of heavy feet resounds around the winding staircases as writers cross paths and exchange beaten glances, leaden legs struggling to keep up. By the time we reached the final flight, we've slowed to a pace that barely above walking. Mark, one of Mike's five offspring – all of whom have become champion athletes – offers his own brand of sympathy: "you lot have been beasted! Imagine how it was growing up with him. He is sick!" Sadistic or not, Mike knows exactly how to get the best out of athletes, be they thoroughbreds or fat old nags, Mike has shown us the hard-core way to go about fitness. He's also taught us to appreciate the luxury of Carrington's facilities. After all, they've only got one flight of stairs. (by Steve Bartram - Inside Carrington - December 2008)