Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has suggested that the decision to banish Jadon Sancho from the team was taken to enhance standards and discipline among his teammates.
After publicly challenging Ten Hag via a strongly-worded statement posted on social media, Sancho set off a storm that culminated in him being axed from the first team.
A report covered by The Peoples Person indicated that the player refused to apologise to his manager when asked to do so.
During Ten Hag’s press conference ahead of the Brighton clash later today, the Dutchman reiterated multiple times that the interests of the club come ahead of any individual.
He said, “The team is above everything.”
Ten Hag further stated that he was asked by his bosses to undertake a cultural rebuild and oversee a change of attitude and standards within United and that is exactly what he is doing.
During the embargoed presser, the 53-year-old coach admitted he is unsure whether Sancho will ever play for the team again.
Ten Hag also said that Sancho “is not important.”
According to The Athletic, it’s entirely possible that the United manager has taken a hard-line stance with Sancho with a dual purpose in mind – to discipline the player for public insubordination as well as reinforce the behaviours of others who may harbour thoughts of staging such stunts of defiance and ill-informed resistance.
As per Laurie Whitwell, Ten Hag who is a staunch disciplinarian views the negative of one individual as a positive for the collective.
Indeed, the former Ajax gaffer said as much to journalists. He remarked, “You say something really important [valuing standards], but it’s in favour of the team — that is what my decision is based on. That is not about me and to be strict. No. This is in favour of the team.”
The Athletic adds that Ten Hag was especially keen to demonstrate that his punishing of Sancho was not about feeling hard done by after being branded a liar by the winger, but about ensuring other players perform with total commitment and dedication.
Whitwell adds, “It was noticeable during his press conference that Ten Hag kept returning to the “good mood” and “good spirits” of his team in training this week, making it plausible to speculate he feels the energy has been enhanced by Sancho’s departure.”
The Athletic journalist explains that during Ten Hag’s media obligations, Sancho was spotted walking across the Carrington car park from the academy building, where he now gets changed.
The 23-year-old was in the company of a fitness coach while preparing for a solo training session.
Last season, Ten Hag gave Sancho a leave of absence of more than three months away from the spotlight to work on his mental health. The player returned to action and demonstrated a momentary improvement in his form, but it seems the forward slipped back into former habits.
Ten Hag has not taken an alternative approach as alluded to by Whitwell who says, “Ten Hag has tried the carrot, offering Sancho three months away from United last season to reset amid a period when he was frequently late for meetings. Now comes the stick, which began with publicly acknowledging the reason for his absence at Arsenal.”
Ten Hag’s strict actions undoubtedly come as a breath of fresh air. Previously, United had entertained players at the expense of managers.
During a feud between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho for instance, the club took Pogba’s side when the Frenchman seemed to revel in the Portuguese manager’s sacking.
The Red Devils also awarded Anthony Martial a contract extension 45 days after Mourinho was relieved of his duties. The current Roma boss did not have a good relationship with the current United number 9.
These are just a few examples of when player power has worked to United’s detriment. Ten Hag’s decisive actions are certainly welcome.