Troubles within the Manchester United squad have been bubbling underneath the surface and earlier this week, it finally came to a head, giving Erik ten Hag another job to tick off his to-do list
On Friday, it was reported that two senior Man United players were involved in a bust-up at their Carrington training complex, forcing interim boss Ralf Rangnick to call a premature end to training. The unnamed pair were said to have been involved in a ‘full-on scrap’ towards the end of the Red Devils’ session, forcing Rangnick to send his players back into the dressing room, where you could assume the tension was palpable enough to cut with a knife.
The silence from the club on the matter speaks volumes about the issue at hand: no amount of damage control or PR spin will convince the fans that everything is rosy — because it isn’t. A club of United’s size should not be content to finish sixth or seventh in the Premier League after spending £120million in the summer, whilst also going five years without a trophy, and the players have spoken at length at their collective disappointment.
But for Ten Hag, it points to an obvious problem for the start of his tenure that Rangnick hasn’t been ableable to fix. A manager can sign as many new players for a squad as he wants, but without some sense of unity or chemistry between the players, there is no next to no chance of the Dutchman assembling a team that can challenge for honours.
It is certainly no surprise that the 52-year-old is reportedly considering attending United’s final game of the season on Sunday, according to The Express. If there are some bad eggs in this United squad, he needs to know first hand which ones need to be discarded ahead of his major clear-out this summer. There simply cannot be any room for leaks about team news or players feeling unhappy about quirky training methods next season if United want to repair their reputation.
There are obvious frustrations within the squad that they have hugely underwhelmed this season. Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are just some names who have been regulars for the past three years but struggled to show any real signs of progression in their careers. The abuse the players receive, combined with their own tempers boiling over, contributes to a toxic atmosphere. But a glance at Liverpool and Manchester City shows that incidents like these, if they do happen, very rarely make it to the public because they are tight-knit groups.
Have Your Say! Which players need to be sold this summer after the latest bust-up at Man Utd? Comment below.
United are a stark contrast to the club he is leaving in Ajax, who have just been crowned Eredivisie champions for the third time in Ten Hag’s fifth season at the club. The players are lauded by the fans and similarly are close with each other. Confidence breeds confidence, and winning ultimately improves the mood inside a dressing room. Compare that to United, where every defeat feels like it needs a three-day inquest — although few could deny the dreadful 4-0 loss at Brighton deserved that.
Ten Hag would have been acutely aware of the problems at the club before he put pen to paper on his three-year deal. And there is no doubt that he has been entrusted to resolve the chaotic situation United currently find themselves in, including creating a happier and more positive environment within the club.
But perhaps this latest incident has brought the highly-rated manager down to earth about just how difficult it will be to fix that. Forget transfers or fast-flowing football, making this team live up to its name of Manchester ‘United’ could prove to be Ten Hag’s most difficult challenge.