How many hours sleep do you like to get the night before a game?
Just enough time to feel good. I’m not the kind of guy who needs an exact number of hours to feel better. Preparation for a game begins two or three days before – it’s important to sleep properly in the build up to the game and not just the night before. If you’ve had two nights of bad sleep before a Saturday game, it could be too late to recover.
What time do you typically wake up when you’ve got a 3pm kick-off?
Normally I rise between 9am and 9:30am, which gives me time to have breakfast, and then a couple of hours to stretch, listen to music, or even watch another game, because there’s normally an early kick-off on TV. Personally, I like to be relaxed in my room, I like to chat with friends or with family, but not about football. I just try to stay calm and not think too much about the game. One or two hours before a game, that’s when I’m really focused.
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
My breakfast is always light, normally I will just have an orange, a banana and some juice. I will then have a bigger pre-match meal, three hours before the game. That meal is normally pasta with some chicken or salmon and that’s it. Before the game I don’t like to drink coffee, either. The way I am as a character means I have enough energy to perform.
What’s your typical pre-match meal?
I normally go for spaghetti bolognese. I’m vegan now, so I just have a vegan version. That’s been the meal I’ve had for pretty much my whole career. I know it works so I don’t like to change too much.
What made you decide to become vegan?
A few reasons. One, the animals, but my wife has been vegan for a while, so I started trying a lot of her meals. After I changed my diet I started to notice a lot of differences in my body; for example I had a lot of inflammation in my knee but that seemed to really improve afterwards. Even my recovery after games has been a lot of better, so it’s been a good move for me.
Does your meal change before an evening kick-off?
The meal is always the same but the timing is obviously different. So if we’re playing at 7:45pm, our pre-match meal would be at 4:45pm. It doesn’t matter if it’s a day or night game, the time of our meal is always three hours before.
How important is nutrition in helping you to perform on the pitch?
It’s massive. I think nutrition is something that has been overlooked in football in years gone by. I think you can go to the gym and run on the treadmill or lift a lot of weights, but without the right food you won’t improve. In my opinion, I’d say probably 80% of your physical improvement comes from your food and 20% from the gym.
How important is it to refuel at half-time?
It’s very important because the second half is always more difficult than the first. If you go out for the second half and you’re not hydrated and you’ve not refuelled then at best you’ll have about 25 minutes or half an hour of being able to compete at the maximum of your ability before you start to tire. We know that rehydration and refuelling is really important.
Do you use energy gels at half-time?
Yeah, a lot of the players do. They give you that final push late on in a game. If you can get a second wind in the late stages of a game then it can make all the difference. They’re great during tournaments as well when you’ve got extra-time; they definitely help to give you a burst of energy in those final minutes.
Is there anything else you like to eat or drink at half-time?
It depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I like to have some fruit or something like that, but not all the time. Then just maybe a water with one of the hydration tablets. That’s usually my type of routine.
How soon do you eat and drink after a game?
Straight after, I’m always starving after games. Our nutritionist always stresses how important it is to get something down you straight away. We have a nice set up at Old Trafford, so after the game the chef prepares the right food for us. We can go and get pasta and chicken – that’s my usual meal – or whatever we want. Everything is ready for us so we’ve got no excuses for not eating right after a game.