Man United bars reporters after stories about ten Hag
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After reports of player unrest, Manchester United barred journalists from a pre-game news conference with Erik ten Hag on Tuesday as the Dutchman spoke ahead of a latest crunch match for his troubled team.
The United manager had been confronted with stories that his methods had been called into question by sections of the locker room after a 10th defeat of the season against Newcastle last week.
“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,” United said in a statement. It did not say how long the ban would last.
The reports claimed there were growing doubts about Ten Hag’s management style as United sit seventh in the Premier League standings and on the brink of Champions League elimination.
But, speaking ahead Wednesday's game against Chelsea at Old Trafford, the former Ajax coach said his squad remained united.
“You can see you can’t play such great football as we did lately if there is no unity,” Ten Hag said. “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 (are) coming in and you see the potential how they can contribute to a very successful Manchester United for the future.”
It is the second time in recent weeks United has responded to negative stories about Ten Hag, having last month refuted claims it was considering replacements for the coach.
While there has been no suggestion from the club that his position is in question, reports point to a growing sense of uncertainty as Ten Hag struggles to build on the success of his first season in charge when leading United back to the Champions League and winning the League Cup.
Defeat against Chelsea would raise further doubts about his future, but Ten Hag said he was confident about the team’s progress after winning five out of its last six games in the league before Newcastle.
“Still we are in the ranking. Of course we dropped, but are not too far away so we are OK,” he said.
United turned to Ten Hag after he led Ajax to three Dutch titles and two cups in the space of four seasons.
Since taking over at Old Trafford in July 2022, he has asserted his authority as he has attempted to turn the club's fortunes around.
Cristiano Ronaldo was made to train away from the first team and dropped after heading to the locker room before the final whistle of a match last season. Jadon Sancho is also training away from the first team over a “discipline issue.” The winger claimed on social media that he had been made a “scapegoat” after being cut from United’s squad for its 3-1 loss to Arsenal this season.
On Tuesday Ten Hag suggested he still had the backing of his players.
“Of course there are always, in every team, players who are not playing or less playing who are less happy. That is not different to normal,” he said. “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 that we are really improving.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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