Man Utd players' feelings towards Jadon Sancho after latest Erik ten Hag spat
It hasn’t been uncommon for Manchester United managers since Sir Alex Ferguson to enjoy promising starts before issues at the club ultimately become too prominent to manage. Jose Mourinho won two major trophies in his maiden campaign, while Louis van Gaal and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed exciting early signs.
The dawn of Erik ten Hag’s era was just as bright, ending a six-year trophy drought with the Carabao Cup and returning to Champions League football with a third-place finish.
But United haven’t looked like building on the exciting start to his reign in the early stages of this campaign, losing two of their opening four Premier League outings.
Mounting distractions off the pitch – including ownership uncertainty and Mason Greenwood – haven’t helped, but many issues are prevalent among his squad.
If Ten Hag doesn’t find a solution in the coming months, his project could unravel before his very eyes.
And the continuation of negative off-field ongoings will only amplify the pressure on the Dutchman to succeed at Old Trafford.
His job is to oversee improvement on the pitch, and he has six problems on his chest that make it difficult.
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Andre Onana has helped develop a new way of playing at United, but his return to Cameroon duty is a major concern.
With the Africa Cup of Nations coming up midway through the season, having to play Altay Bayindir over Onana for as many as four games would be a significant blow in a crunch period.
Issues also lie across Ten Hag’s backline. He will need a new right-sided centre-back next summer, with Raphael Varane injured again and his backup uninspiring.
United finishing the 3-1 defeat at Arsenal with Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans was a damning indicator of what Ten Hag is working with after the former blocked his £30m exit and a more suited replacement’s arrival.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has enjoyed a resurgence at right-back and is in line for a new contract. But he still has frailties going forward, and Diogo Dalot has proven unreliable competition.
On the left, Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia are out injured, putting faith in Tottenham Hotspur flop Sergio Reguilon to provide emergency cover.
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The problems leak into the attack amid a social media storm surrounding Jadon Sancho’s statement of defiance against his manager on Sunday.
There is also an air of uncertainty surrounding Antony, the subject of allegations of domestic abuse from a former girlfriend and two others.
Antony has strongly denied all allegations. However, United may take him out of the spotlight if the case intensifies, leaving Ten Hag without his go-to right-winger.
And while Rasmus Hojlund has had a promising start to life at United, Anthony Martial looks past his best. It would be a concern if the £72m Dane suffered an injury.
Some issues Ten Hag faces are easier to solve than others, and most rely on player development, which should come naturally under his coaching.
But if they remain rife and results continue to falter, questions about his future at the helm may emerge.
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