Jadon Sancho is currently banished from the Manchester United first-team squad until he apologises to manager Erik ten Hag for publishing a public statement against the Dutchman.
The former Borussia Dortmund winger hit back with a written statement on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, in which he claimed he was a “scapegoat”.
Following a discussion between the two, where Sancho refused to publicly apologise for his actions, it was decided that the player would train on his own away from the team until he does so.
Ten Hag refused to comment further on Sancho during his pre-match press conference but stressed the importance of setting the culture at a club that rarely had one beforehand. “I think everything is said,” stated the Dutchman. “The squad is strong, in good spirits and a good mood going into the game [against Brighton].
“Strict lines is what the club asked me because there was no good culture before last season so to set good standards, that is what I did and it is my job to control the standards.”
But what are those standards? Some of Sancho’s teammates have been in similar positions, albeit with no public back-and-forths, and appeared to appreciate the challenges set by their manager. They have explained in interviews what the manager expects and the rules which he sets.
Luke Shaw was one of the first players to personally experience the standards that Ten Hag has set at Old Trafford. Two poor performances at the start of last season saw him either dropped from the squad completely or benched for the following eight games.
He then responded with an excellent campaign when he eventually earned his place in the team again. Shaw stated that the changes the Dutchman made were needed in order to keep standards high.
“People can’t do whatever they want,” he said. “At a top club, it has to be like that. Maybe that’s been part of the problem in the past. If you’re not keeping the standards high, you won’t play.”
Bruno Fernandes previously explained some details behind Alejandro Garnacho’s timekeeping problems during Ten Hag’s first pre-season. The highly-rated youngster was late for meetings and had to wait several months before his first proper chance under the manager.
The now-United captain said that Garnacho finally earned his chance after his training and attitude improved. The quality was never in question, but the 29-year-old highlighted the importance of the other traits.
“He was good, but he knows that we expect a lot from him,” said Bruno on Garnacho last season. “Obviously he’s still really young, he’s doing really well. He was not at his best at the beginning of the season.
“On the [pre-season] tour he didn’t have the best attitude that he should have had, and that’s why he didn’t get his chances until now. He’s getting his chances because he’s training better, having a different attitude, and deserving his chances.”
Perhaps the best example of the rules that Ten Hag placed coming into action was when Marcus Rashford was dropped to the bench against Wolves for being late to a pre-game meeting. “Internal disciplinary,” said Ten Hag before the game. “No [details]. Our rules. Now we focus on the game.”
Ultimately, Rashford would come on to score the winning goal, which obviously sweetened the decision. But considering squad roles at the time, Rashford being demoted to the bench was easily a bigger call than dropping Sancho from the squad entirely.
Rashford, as well, was straight in his response after the game. The England international cited the ‘team rules’ and understood the reasoning behind the move from the manager.
“I was a little bit late [for the meeting],” he said. “I overslept. It’s the team rules. It’s a mistake that can happen. I was disappointed not to play but I understand. I think we can draw a line under it and move on. I’m in a good place and I’m just pleased with the way we are progressing.”
Now, of course, there could be complexities regarding Sancho’s situation that we simply don’t know. On the surface, however, it appears that Ten Hag has tried many different methods to help the player before a public comment that really was not as crazy as it appears in the media.
Facundo Pellistri is a player that all fans believe deserves a chance. He was on the bench. Alejandro Garnacho the same. Rasmus Hojlund was fit and made a bigger impact in his cameo than Sancho has in most of his United appearances.
Ten Hag’s comments about training performance perhaps should’ve been behind closed doors, but his comments didn’t cause a storm until the response from Sancho aired. Some think he was entitled to respond publicly, others think it was a complete overreaction that has ruined his best chance to prove his ability in a United shirt in three seasons with the club.
Before it was deleted, Sancho ended his statement: “I will continue to fight for this badge no matter what!” If he truly meant that then he already knows what he needs to do. His teammates have explained it.
Has the chance gone? We don’t know. Another hugely talented prospect failing at Old Trafford isn’t a good look though, for Sancho or the club.
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