Manchester United have been forced to officially confirm that fitness coach Tony Strudwick has not been relieved of first-team duties, after a weekend of speculation surrounding his position.
Strudwick was widely reported to have been axed by Van Gaal as the United boss continues to tinker with his backroom staff, but an official statement released this morning has revealed that the long-serving coach has essentially received a promotion.
United decided to clear up uncertainty surrounding Strudwick's role by sharing that he's now head of athletic development, shifted into a position where he oversees a structure which the Red Devils can implement in terms of preparation from the academy upwards.
Another Ferguson favourite sees role changed
Strudwick has played a key role at United since he was brought to the club by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2007, working his way up to have a direct involvement in first-team sessions and the conditioning of elite Red Devils stars.
That position was not changed during United's pre-season tour of the United States but Van Gaal decided a change was necessary when that trip was finished, moving Strudwick into a role which will see work more closely with players at academy level.
An official statement on Strudwick's shift revealed: "At the start of this season Tony took on the role of head of athletic development. Tony is now overseeing the athletic development of all players, working with Louis van Gaal for the first team right through to Paul McGuinness in the Academy.
"Introducing this new role and using Tony’s invaluable experience in sports science, which spans over 20 years, shows the club’s commitment on placing greater emphasis on developing players for the long-term success of the club.
Future plans key to Strudwick's new position
United even decided that it was necessary to get a few lines from Strudwick on his more academy-focused role to make it abundantly clear there's no knee-jerk change to the structure at Carrington.
The 42-year-old told United's official website: "I am thoroughly enjoying this new role.
"With increased importance on developing players for the future, the athletic component becomes critical in their advancement and to have the chance to work with the younger players, who are in the early stages of their career, as well as the first team, will give a continuity of progression which is critical to their future success.”
The Red Devils will hope their official communication puts to bed rumours that Strudwick was in some way demoted or stood down from first-team affairs, with Van Gaal keen to prove that the change means he's looking to the future rather than simply loading his squad up with star signings in search of instant success.
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