Erik ten Hag: Man Utd boss wants ‘trust’ from club as player unrest claims surface again

Video caption,

‘Journalists should not go around our back’

Erik ten Hag has urged Manchester United’s hierarchy to trust him to return the club to their former glories.

It comes after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle, their 10th loss in 21 games this season.

There have also been claims of unrest behind the scenes, with some players reported to be unhappy with Ten Hag, or his training and tactical methods.

BBC Sport has been told similar accounts.

On Tuesday, the club reacted furiously at not being given the right of reply to these claims and excluded representatives of four media organisations, including senior Premier League broadcasting partner Sky, from their scheduled news conference to preview Wednesday’s league match at Old Trafford against Chelsea.

Questions have been levelled at Ten Hag, whose side are seventh in the Premier League, five points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa, are out of the EFL Cup and bottom of their Champions League group.

Yet, after 10 years without a title challenge following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Ten Hag is adamant he is the right man to deliver sustained success.

United finished third last season after Ten Hag’s arrival and won the EFL Cup, their first trophy in six years.

“I know we will get there where we want to be,” he told journalists on Tuesday. “Because? See my record. Everywhere where I was, every season, I got my targets.

“If we stick together, stick to the plan and the strategy, we will get where we want to be.”

Are some players unhappy?

Although he initially rejected the notion some players were unhappy with his methods, Ten Hag quickly admitted “one or two” had made observations, adding that “the majority” were committed to the “proactive, dynamic, brave” style he is trying to implement. “That is what they want,” he said.

England winger Jadon Sancho, who joined the club for £73m, has still not resolved his issues with Ten Hag and has been training away from the first team at Carrington.

It has been three months since Sancho went on social media to claim he had been made “a scapegoat for a long time” after Ten Hag said he was dropped for a match at Arsenal because of below-par training performances. He deleted the post but has refused to apologise despite team-mates advising him to do so.

It may well be United have to either subsidise his wages, take a massive hit on the transfer fee or both, if Sancho is to leave during next month’s transfer window.

Sources suggest former France defender Raphael Varane, 30, who won four Champions League titles at Real Madrid and the World Cup, is baffled to have started just twice in two months despite no injury issues, with England centre-back Harry Maguire preferred ahead of him having previously been stripped of the captaincy.

Meanwhile, England striker Marcus Rashford, who scored a career-best 30 goals last season, has just two this season.

Asked specifically about Rashford – who was heavily criticised by pundits across Sky and BBC at the weekend – Ten Hag skirted round the issue, saying “everyone was disappointed” with his side’s performance at Newcastle, which he admitted was not good enough.

However, when a similar question was asked about Rashford’s fellow under-performing striker Anthony Martial a few minutes later, Ten Hag said he thought it was “unfair” to single out individuals for criticism.

“If it was a pattern, it would be different,” he said. “But this is not a pattern, absolutely not. Everyone is giving their best, there is unity as a team.”

Is Ten Hag to blame or is it ‘Groundhog Day’?

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MOTD: ‘Too many bad eggs’ in Manchester United squad after being ‘battered’ by Newcastle

What most definitely is a pattern are stories emerging from Old Trafford saying players are not impressed with the manager.

It happened with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick. Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer also ended up leaving after an initial upturn in fortunes following their arrival gave way to regression and general discontent.

In an interview in September, Solskjaer criticised the behaviour of some players during his time as United manager, saying they were not as good as they thought they were.

He added: “When you have a group you need everyone to pull in the same direction. When things didn’t go right, you could see certain players and egos came out.”

When those media reports about Ten Hag emerged on Monday evening, some on social media pointed out the similarity with stories about previous managers also “losing the dressing room”.

Former United defender Gary Neville wrote: “We’ve been here before, it feels like Groundhog Day where the players look a little disinterested, the body language is poor, the performances are average, the manager comes under criticism.”

With matches at Liverpool, West Ham and Nottingham Forest, plus home games with Bournemouth and Aston Villa in December, United have plenty of stiff challenges ahead once they have taken on Mauricio Pochettino’s inconsistent Chelsea side at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Many supporters are getting bored with managers being blamed for poor performances when a succession of expensive players are yet to deliver anything remotely resembling a consistent challenge for major honours.

Ten Hag has brought in 16 players either permanently or on loan and only currently injured Argentina centre-half Lisandro Martinez could be regarded as a success, while they ruled out an approach for England captain Harry Kane this summer.

It is anticipated Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group will finally have their purchase of 25% of United confirmed early next week.

Given another six to eight weeks will need to elapse before Ratcliffe can start to exert his presence at Old Trafford, it looks like being down to Ten Hag and his players to restore some positivity to the club.

Not that he accepts the situation is quite as bad as some reports have made out.

“When you [media] talk in your article about ‘one source’, that’s a joke,” he said. “I won’t reflect on that. When you have one bad performance, you can’t tell the culture is no good.

“Of course, negativity is never good. You have to take care it never kills the energy.

“But I don’t care because I know, and all the players know, we are the biggest club in the world. Then you know you get a lot of attention. When results are not going your way and you are not performing how you should, criticism is coming. You have to deal with that.

“In this club, I can’t say we are waiting for two or three years. At this club the demand should be that you win every game.

“I don’t want to change this mentality because that will be a drop-off in culture. That means there is a high standard on me but there is also high standards on the players, and I don’t make compromises on that.”


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