LONDON - Louis van Gaal has promised to put his Manchester United footballers through their paces during an intense but carefully constructed pre-season tour to the United States as he tries to ensure that there is no repeat of last season's dismal start.
The manager is determined to see his team hit the ground running after mustering only 13 points from their opening 10 English Premier League matches last season.
Among the reasons that he cited for the poor start were United's tour arrangements in America last summer, his late arrival at Old Trafford after guiding the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals and the extensive adjustments that the squad had to make to his training methods.
The main concern the Dutchman has this summer centres on how quickly the club can secure their main transfer targets.
United are in the market for a right-back, centre-half, midfielder and striker. They have already signed Memphis Depay, the Netherlands winger, from PSV Eindhoven for £25 million (S$52.3 million), with van Gaal eager to ensure the new faces are given an opportunity to bed in quickly.
"A lot is dependent (in pre-season) on how many new players are coming," he said. "It's also a little boring because the results in pre-season are not so important.
"When you see our pre-season last year in the United States, we have won everything and we played against big, top clubs.
"Then, we had to play our first match (of the Premier League season) against Swansea City and we lost it. That cannot happen next season."
With the new Premier League campaign due to kick off on Aug 8 - about a week earlier than normal owing to next summer's European Championship - and a two-legged Champions League play-off to negotiate that month, van Gaal is eager to maximise training and preparation times.
He complained that his attempts to hold regular double training sessions on last summer's tour, when they played matches in Los Angeles, Denver, Washington, Detroit and Miami, were undermined by a series of travel and logistical issues that put his squad at risk of fatigue.
As well as the frequent adjustments his players had to make to changing time zones, he was unhappy at the distances that the team had to travel from their hotels to train and play, and the volume of commercial commitments.
Having won his battle for a more streamlined tour that will involve travelling about 4,000 fewer kilometres and see United based mainly in two locations - Seattle and San Jose - with a final game in Chicago before flying home, he believes it will be easier to stage morning and afternoon training sessions.
"Now, I think we have improved our American tour and we can build up our fitness better there," he said.
THE TIMES, LONDON