‘He will never play for Manchester United again as long as I’m still the Manager’: Eric Ten Hag sent $60m star out of training this morning for bad behavior, told him to find a new club or he will make his life miserable like he did to Ronaldo

‘He will never play for Manchester United again as long as I’m still the Manager’: Eric Ten Hag sent $60m star out of training this morning for bad behavior, told him to find a new club or he will make his life miserable like he did to Ronaldo



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Jadon Sancho’s foolish outburst at Erik ten Hag made zero sense – it’s time Man Utd’s £73m man took responsibility for his career before it’s too late

Richard Martin

Sep 07, 2023 14:08+01:00



Jadon Sancho GFXGOAL


Manchester United

Erik ten Hag

Jadon Sancho

Premier League


The manager did everything he could to help the winger get his career back on track but he must come down hard on him for questioning his authority


When Erik ten Hag was asked why Jadon Sancho was absent from his Manchester United squad against Arsenal, there were a number of ways he could have dealt with the question. He could have said the player was feeling unwell. He could have said that this was not the right match for him. He could have said that the coach makes the decisions. Instead, he was brutally honest.


“On his performance on training we didn’t select him,” the manager said. “You have to reach the level every day at Manchester United. You can make choices in the front line, so in this game, he wasn’t selected.”


Sancho, who has done hardly any media in the last year and is not usually vocal on social, immediately fired back. Within an hour of Ten Hag’s press conference, Sancho had crafted a message which he posted on Twitter: “Please don’t believe everything you read! I will not allow people saying things that is completely untrue, I have conducted myself in training very well this week. I believe there are other reasons for this matter that I won’t go into, I’ve been a scapegoat for a long time which isn’t fair!”


Article continues below

Out of nowhere, Ten Hag suddenly had a another serious problem on his hands. One he really didn’t need after an injury crisis, the still fresh fallout relating to the Mason Greenwood affair and now another uncomfortable situation surrounding Antony. How he deals with it all will define how he is viewed by his players and by fans…


Louis Van Gaal Netherlands 2022Getty

Dutch directness

One reading of what happened on Sunday is that Ten Hag was just being Dutch. People from the Netherlands have a reputation for being very direct. As Ben Coates, author of Why the Dutch Are Different, has put it: “I think the Netherlands are a place where… no-one is going to pretend. When you say something in a business meeting that is not a very smart suggestion, people will always point it out.”


Directness is so ingrained in the Netherlands that there is a Dutch word for it: ‘bespreekbaarheid’, which translates as speakability, the idea that nothing cannot be talked about in public. United’s only other Dutch manager, Louis van Gaal, was infamous for speaking his mind in his eventful two years at Old Trafford, whether it was describing an action by Robert Huth as “sex machoism” or calling a journalist “fat man”.


Compared to his predecessor, who made an outrageous claim about the World Cup this week, Ten Hag looks tight-lipped. But while he often bites his tongue, sometimes he cannot help himself.


When Marcus Rashford was left out of the team at Wolves last season, Ten Hag first explained it as ‘internal discipline’, leading the striker to admit that he had been late to a team meeting. When he was criticised for substituting Bruno Fernandes last season, he said to a journalist: “You’re looking a cow in the ass”. It is perfectly possible that he meant no harm in his answer on Sancho, even if the winger did not see it that way.




Premier League


Wolverhampton Wanderers

1 Feb 2024



Manchester United

Match Preview

Jadon Sancho Tottenham 2022-23Getty

Taking him out of the spotlight

Sancho’s furious response to Ten Hag at first glance painted a picture of an insensitive and harsh coach who was calling his player’s attitude into question. But the truth is Ten Hag was remarkably tactful with the winger last season.


When seeing the player experience a huge drop off after a fine start to the season, the manager made a huge call, taking Sancho out of the squad for three months and devising an individual training programme for him. That included sending him to train with Dutch amateur club OJC Rosmalen, where Sancho could work with coaches trusted by Ten Hag away from the spotlight of Old Trafford.


“When the league started he played some good games, but after we got a drop of levels. Sometimes you don’t know why or what is causing it,” the Dutchman said at the time. “Most of the time it comes slowly. First you observe, but the stats back it up. In the start of the season, he had goals and assists, but his key moments and key actions became less and less. It’s a combination of physical but also mental.”


When Sancho finally returned to the team in February, he did so with a bang, scoring a fine goal in the 2-2 fightback against Leeds. Ten Hag led the praise for the winger. “I’m very happy. He’s on the way back. We know he is a magnificent football player,” he said.


“He can definitely be a big impact for our team. I think it will strengthen him, motivate him to give even more, then you’ll get more. It’s a brilliant footballer, and that second goal I really enjoyed it, and especially for him.”


Jadon Sancho Manchester United Tottenham 2022-23Getty Images

‘Finally he has to do it by himself’

Looking back at the rest of Ten Hag’s words that night, however, makes for intriguing reading in light of their recent confrontation. In between the praise was a warning that only Sancho could truly resurrect his career.


“I think it’s in his own hands. So if he wants, he can do it. I will back him, the coaches are backing him, the team is backing him and supporting him. But finally he has to do it by himself,” the manager said. “You can see when he’s in a good level he is an outstanding football player, he’s brilliant. He can make the difference and I hope he can stay in this mood and contribute to this team and score a lot of goals and create chances and assists.”


Seven months on, and it’s fair to say Sancho has not kicked on from that comeback. He has not been on a good level often enough. He did score a fine goal against Leicester two weeks later, and a superb strike against Tottenham in April. But too often he lacked his former pace, his old sense of invention, his old swagger.


Too often he would play a simple, short pass and slow a counterattack down rather than take a risk to unlock a defence. In the final three months of the season he made 10 league starts, contributing just two goals and two assists. After having some good moments as a false nine on the pre-season tour of the USA, he was left out of the starting line-up in United’s first three Premier League games, coming off the bench each time but contributing little.


Jadon Sancho Borussia DortmundGetty

Testing his limits while at Dortmund

It could be that Sancho is struggling with a personal issue the public is unaware of. Dele Alli’s heart-breaking interview with Gary Neville over the summer should be a reminder that footballers are humans like the rest of us and can experience personal difficulties that can spill over into their professional life. It is up to Sancho how he deals with such questions and private matters should be allowed to remain private if a player so wishes.


All United can do is encourage the player to knuckle down and rediscover his old self. The club and Ten Hag have done everything they can to get his career back on track. There are suggestions, however, that Sancho’s attitude may be his own worst enemy. While at Borussia Dortmund, where he turned into one of the most exciting attacking players in the world, posting 17 Bundesliga goals and 17 assists in one campaign, Sancho had several run-ins with coach Lucien Favre.


In one incident, in 2019, Sancho was dropped for a match against Borussia Monchengladbach after reporting back late to the squad from international duty. Sporting director Michael Zorc explained: “Jadon is a good lad, but he’s very young and shot to the top. He might test his limits and that’s why we decided to not call him up today.”


Sancho also ‘tested his limits’ in 2020 when he defied Germany’s coronavirus lockdown rules to get a haircut, which led to him being fined by the German FA.


“We know that he just has to be more disciplined in some things, but he knows that himself,” team-mate Emre Can said at the time. “He just has to be smarter and grow up with things like that. He can’t afford to make such mistakes in the future. You have to lead Jadon the right way. He’s a great boy, even off the pitch. He doesn’t do it on purpose to cause a scandal.”


Sancho’s time-keeping is also believed to have been a problem with United and also with the England team. He and Phil Foden were dropped for an under-19 game with Latvia after turning up late to a team meeting. And according to The Daily Mail, England manager Gareth Southgate was unimpressed by Sancho ‘sulking’ after being left out of the Euro 2020 opener against Croatia. Indeed, he has only played once for the Three Lions in the last two years.


Jadon Sancho Man Utd 2023-24Getty Images

‘Saudi Arabia or the bench’

It is understandable that Sancho wanted to defend himself after Ten Hag criticised his performances in training, but the tone of his response has not done him or his manager any favours. Claiming that he had been made a scapegoat for the team’s struggles has reportedly gone down very badly with Ten Hag.


It doesn’t add up. A player who has not started any matches can hardly be blamed for United’s struggles. Media discussions about the team’s problems this season have tended to focus on Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro or Marcus Rashford. Until Sunday, Sancho had barely been mentioned.


By lashing out at Ten Hag, Sancho has backed himself into a corner. Rio Ferdinand does not see a way back for him at Old Trafford after confronting the manager. “There’s no way Jadon is putting out a statement like that if he hasn’t in his own eyes performed well,” the former United defender said on his Rio Presents Five YouTube channel.


“On his chart, Jadon might think ‘I’ve trained alright’, but the manager might have a different standard. There’s two ways this ends. There’s only one window open now and that’s Saudi. Or you’re on the bench or not getting in the squad for the rest of the season.”


Will he or won’t he, then? It’s transfer deadline day for Saudi clubs (September 7, 22.00 BST), and any interested parties – with Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq the latest to be linked – will have to get a move on.


Erik ten Hag Manchester UnitedGetty

Underperforming and questioning Ten Hag

Ten Hag has been ruthless in the past with players who were simply underperforming on the pitch, in the case of David de Gea and Harry Maguire. The Spaniard saw a new contract withdrawn while the England defender was stripped of the captaincy. He also showed no mercy with Cristiano Ronaldo after he questioned authority, telling Piers Morgan in that infamous interview last year: “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t have respect for me.”


Sancho has managed to commit both offences. He has not come close to hitting the heights he reached with Dortmund since his £73m ($91m) move in 2021 and now he has also decided to take on the manager. To protect his own authority, Ten Hag must now come down hard.


“If a similar situation between Jadon Sancho and Erik ten Hag happened when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, he would’ve put the player on the bench or in the stands for a few weeks,” said former United striker Louis Saha, speaking to Paddy Power.


“No one would’ve questioned the decision because it’s about competition and there are other good players around for places in the team. He was the man in charge, and no one could question him publicly, especially when you know how he would react. Nobody would mess with Sir Alex.”


Despite United’s troublesome start to the season, Ten Hag is the most promising manager the club has had since Ferguson. Sir Alex ended up removing Roy Keane and David Beckham from the club after falling foul of his authority. Both players were far more important players than Sancho but they both had to go. Unless the winger apologises to Ten Hag and can convince him he is willing to fight for his place, he will follow the same fate.



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