13 January 2024

‘Hungry players’ key to a successful Manchester United says boss Erik ten Hag

13 January 2024

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United will only succeed with “hungry players” after letting Jadon Sancho leave little more than a year after Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-profile departure.

The Dutch coach was brought in 19 months ago to change things on and off the pitch at Old Trafford, where he has had to deal with a fair share of distractions.

Unhappy star Ronaldo’s second spell at United ended in acrimonious fashion in November 2022 and another big name has left midway through a Ten Hag season in charge of the Premier League giants.

Sancho has been banished from the first-team since September, when he claimed on social media that he had been made a “scapegoat” after the Dutchman said he omitted him from a matchday squad due to his training levels.

The 23-year-old this week returned to former club Borussia Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season and, while he wished the winger luck, the United boss underlined the need for the right mentality at the club.

“If you want to perform, you need hungry players,” Ten Hag said.

“I already said, we need personalities and players who are very hungry to fight for the badge, so fight for this club, and to do this in the team.”

If you want to perform, you need hungry players

Discipline is a key pillar of Ten Hag’s approach and was backed during the Ronaldo situation by the Glazers, while new incoming minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has not stood in the way of Sancho’s exit.

“I think it is not about discipline, it is about normal behaviour,” the Dutchman said. “It is about that, so what you can expect from a top professional.”

United are preparing for Sunday’s home clash with Tottenham – their only Premier League match this month.

The Red Devils need a win having lost nine of their 20 top-flight matches in an injury-hit season, with results and performances increasing the pressure on Ten Hag.

But the United boss trusts a process he believes will improve as absentees return, including Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez.

Ten Hag said: “If you ask me the question ‘is it difficult for you (to deal with things)?’, no, it is not difficult for me.

“Because I could expect from the start of the season when this happened the process could go negative, then, as a manager, you have to stay positive and get the process in the right direction.

“In the meantime, you have to be pragmatic, get as much points as possible and wait until the players are fit.

“In the meantime, work on your team, work on individuals that they go to higher levels, that you set conditions that the team is performing better, that the results will rise again.”

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