Man Utd ban Sky Sports and three other outlets as Erik ten Hag hits back at ‘player revolt’

Erik ten Hag - Man Utd ban Sky Sports and three other outlets as Erik ten Hag hits back at ‘player revolt’
Erik ten Hag, the Manchester United manager, is having to deal with yet another crisis engulfing the club - Getty Images/Chris Brunskill

Erik ten Hag has hit back at claims of a dressing room revolt at Manchester United after the club banned a series of media Manchester United were in fresh turmoil on Tuesday  as Erik ten Hag insisted he still had the backing of his players after the club banned a series of media outlets in the wake of claims of a dressing room revolt.

Reporters from Sky Sports, the Daily Mirror, Manchester Evening News and ESPN were all barred from attending Ten Hag’s press conference over reports of player unrest ahead of United’s crunch Premier League game against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

United said the measures were taken not due to the stories themselves but because the club was not contacted for comment in advance.

Although Ten Hag claimed the majority of the players were on board with his plans, he admitted “one or two” had spoken to him about his approach as he heads into a critical next fortnight urging his squad to “stick together” and not allow “negativity” to “kill the energy”.

‘You can’t play great football as we did lately if there is no unity’

Ten Hag is hoping for a swift response against Chelsea and Bournemouth on Saturday to the wretched 1-0 defeat at Newcastle at the weekend when he clashed with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford’s attitude and body language came under the spotlight after another poor showing from the England striker.

United have suffered 10 defeats in 21 matches this season, and conceded 34 goals in the process, and will crash out of the Champions League next Tuesday if they fail to beat Bayern Munich or the Copenhagen and Galatasaray match produces a winner. After that, they face Liverpool at Anfield, where they lost 7-0 last season.

The futures of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane are in doubt. Sancho has been banished from the first team squad for more than three months after a falling out with Ten Hag and centre-half Varane has dropped to fifth in the pecking order after a deterioration in his relationship with the manager.

Ten Hag said it was normal for players who were not playing to be “less happy” but insists he still has the backing of most in his squad, despite growing scrutiny of his tactics and the team’s openness and lack of an identity.

Raphael Varane (right) Erk ten Hag (L) -
Raphael Varane (right) made 34 appearance in all competitions for United last season but has fallen out of favor with Ten Hag - Getty Images/Robbie Jay Barratt

“Oh yes, I am sure,” he said. “You can see for instance the comeback against Brentford, the Burnley game, the Fulham game, every time the team is there, showed great character, great determination, resilience, so we are together. You can see you can’t play such great football as we did lately if there is no unity.

“I listen always to my players and I give them always opportunities to tell – if the players have a different opinion of course I will listen.

“But they haven’t told me. Or maybe one or two, but it is about in general – the majority – they want to play like this: proactive, dynamic, brave, that is what they want.

“You can see the players are behind it because of the performances against Everton and Galatasaray. You see we are really improving.”

He added: “Of course there are always in every team players who are not playing or playing less who are less happy, that is not different to normal, in some circumstances you need that, they have to wait for their chance and that can come. But, no, there are no issues.

“We are always interacting [with the players] – the managing team, coaching staff, so you do it in team talks, in groups, individuals or partnerships, so there is a lot of interaction.”

Despite winning five of their past seven league matches, Ten Hag’s suggestion that United are playing “such great football” may bemuse fans who saw them scrape to unconvincing wins against the likes of Fulham and Luton recently and blow a 2-0 and 3-1 lead against Galatasaray in Istanbul last week.

Ten Hag acknowledged there was upheaval at United with supporters still waiting for confirmation of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s move to buy a 25 per cent stake in the club from the Glazers and plans to upgrade Old Trafford in limbo.

Asked about the disorder at the club, Ten Hag replied: “But not in the dressing room … Of course there are a lot of rumours about strategic review, but it is not that we get distracted by it.

“We are on a journey, a route, we know we are still in transition but we are in the right direction, you see it how we construct a team, develop it, the team is progressing, how young players coming in and you see the potential how they can contribute to a very successful Manchester United for the future.

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

“You know in the moment results are not going your way and you are not performing how you should, there is coming criticism. You have to deal with that. We are together in that. There is no way you are alone there. We are together in that boat. So we will deal with it together.”

‘They should not go around our back printing articles’

The bans issued to four media outlets came just over an hour before Ten Hag’s press conference. “We’re taking action against a number of news organisations today, not for publishing stories we don’t like, but for doing so without contacting us first to give us the opportunity to comment, challenge or contextualise,” the club said.

“We believe this is an important principle to defend and we hope it can lead to a re-set in the way we work together.”

Ten Hag echoed those sentiments when he said: “They should come to us first and not go around our back printing articles, that is not the right thing. I think we have another relationship, they can, they should come to us beforehand, we have a normal and professional discussion and debate about it.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.