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BY DENZIL PINTo
DOHA: Manchester United sparked a fan-frenzy at Aspire Academy when the 19-time English Premier League (EPL) champions trained in an open session yesterday morning.
The EPL leaders, who arrived in Doha early on Monday following their 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, are in the Qatari capital for a four-day winter training camp, which concludes tomorrow.
Yesterday’s session was the first time Manchester United held an open training session in Doha this week.
By the time the first-team squad arrived on Pitch 3 with the club’s security guards at Aspire Academy shortly after 10:00am, the stand on the sidelines was soon filling up with fans of all ages eager to see their stars in action.
Before then, Manchester United coaches had set up the pitch with cones and training equipment for the first-team squad, who swapped the freezing temperatures at Carrington training complex in Manchester for the warm sunshine at the state-of-the-art facilities in Doha.
As the first-team squad were being put through their paces under the guidance of Manchester United’s assistant coach Mike Phelen, and first team coach Rene Meulensteen, the fans’ eyes were glued on the pitch taking pictures with their mobile phones, cameras and Ipads.
There were no major absentees from yesterday morning’s session with England striker Wayne Rooney, Netherlands’ forward Robin Van Persie, who has bagged 18 EPL goals since his £24.5m from arch-rivals Arsenal in July 2012, and defender Rio Ferdinand taking part in the training session.
After a one and-a-half hour session which consisted of a mini football match, drills and goalkeeping practice for the goalkeepers, the squad players took time to meet the fans after their session.
Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic was the first to greet fans as the Serbian defender signed autographs and posed for pictures under the watchful eye of the club’s security guard.
He was soon followed by England midfielders Tom Cleverly and Michael Carrick, Japan’s Shinji Kagawa, Brazil defender Rafael and Portugal winger Nani, who all greeted the jubilant fans.
With fans eager to meet England star striker Wayne Rooney, did not have to wait long after the 27-year-old, who has nine goals this season finished his shooting drills on the pitch to greet the supporters.
Ferdinand, Wales midfielder Ryan Giggs, who has 649 appearances for the club since joining the club in 1990, and former England midfielder Paul Scholes also greeted fans.
It is the second time the three-time UEFA Champions League winners have held their training camp at Aspire Academy, with first being held in January 2010. Coach Sir Alex Ferguson, who has not travelled to Doha, will be keen to see his squad come back to Manchester refreshed with his side still vying for the EPL, UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup.
The Red depart Doha tomorrow before playing Fulham on Saturday.THE PENINSULA