Erik ten Hag refuses to refer to Jadon Sancho by name and skirts around questions involving the winger in pre-Brighton press conference after blockbuster fall-out at Man United
- Sancho appeared to blast Ten Hag on his social media after he was criticised
- He has since deleted the post but has been training on his own at the academy
- Ten Hag tried to change the focus to the Brighton game when asked questions
Jadon Sancho dominated the agenda when Erik ten Hag faced the media ahead of Saturday’s game against Brighton at Old Trafford.
While Sancho trained alone at the academy, Ten Hag faced 20 questions in total over his fall-out with the winger and decision to exclude him from the first-team squad.
The England man has been the centre of attention after seemingly accusing his manager of lying about his apparently poor training standards.
He won’t be in the United squad for their game against Brighton this weekend, and it’s unclear when he will return to the set-up, if at all.
Here, Mail Sport transcribes the Dutchman’s responses to questions about Sancho.
Erik ten Hag refused to address Jadon Sancho by name and did his best to avoid questions about the winger during his press conference on Friday
Sancho (second left) has been training on his own after appearing to publicly criticise his manager
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Can you clarify if Jadon Sancho will be in the squad against Brighton and give us an indication of what’s happening?
ETH: We close the game, we work on the feedback, give the team the feedback. I think we played very well at Arsenal. We trained very well, we played very well, we deserved much more at Arsenal, but it was not on our side.
That was definitely the outcome of our analysis and you can see we are progressing against a good Arsenal and, minimum, we have to get a draw there. I think we should have won but we didn’t but we take the performance.
In the last two days when all the players came back we trained very well and we are ready to fight Brighton, a very good Brighton and are really looking forward to it and have a lot of energy and are ready for it.
With respect, I asked you about Jadon Sancho and his response to what you said after that game and the club statement that came out yesterday. Has there been any resolution?
ETH: I think everything is said. So, as I said, the squad is strong, the squad is in good spirits and a good mood going into the game.
It doesn’t feel like there’s a good mood with Jadon’s situation and Antony not available. How can the squad be good?
ETH: They are very good. You have sometimes setbacks in seasons, players are injured or for other reasons are not available so you construct a squad and the squad is very good and the players who are available are very motivated to give a good performance.
Ten Hag had slammed Sancho’s training performances in a press conference and the winger responded
Sancho said in a statement on social media that he has been ‘made a scape goat for a long time which isn’t fair’
Do you have to be a father figure to these players sometimes?
ETH: No. It is also you live with the generation, about team construction, the group dynamic but always about the team. That is ahead of everything else but within that everyone plays his role and everyone has different characters and you have to manage those characters. But also the team is always above anything else.
Do you have strict lines with the players or have you been able to give a bit more leeway to some than others?
ETH: Strict lines is the point, is what the club asked me because there was no good culture before last season, so to set some good standards that is what I did. That is my job, to control the standards.
It has never been when someone makes one mistake, it is a whole process before you come to a certain outcome about strict lines. If staff, players or whoever, if there is a structure to cross lines you have to be strong, absolutely.
What were your feelings about what Sancho put on social media challenging your authority?
ETH: I don’t think about that and I don’t talk about that, because I have to win a game. It is all about that. The players who are there and available deserve me. I have to guide them, I have to prepare them, it is about that. I only focus on the players who are available.
The winger has since deleted the post but is seemingly being punished for his actions
But is it important that you as manager make a stand after he almost called you a liar?
ETH: It is also not about me, it is about the team and the club. I put my energy into giving the best performance tomorrow against Brighton.
You dealt with Cristiano Ronaldo swiftly last year, how long do you think it will take to reach a resolution on the Sancho issue?
ETH: I don’t know but, as I say, I don’t think about that. I think about tomorrow. I think about the way the team has to progress. We go to Champions League. I have a lot to consider to make the right decisions.
He has deleted the social media post which shows contrition, but has he apologised?
ETH: I don’t think this subject is important. I think what is important is I have to prepare my team. So that’s what I do. I prepare my team the best I can, I put all my effort into the players who are available. He is not available, so in this moment, he is not important, because he can’t contribute.
Would you consider playing him again for United?
ETH: I don’t know. I am sitting here. Tomorrow, we have a big game, we are going into a new block of games, many games in a condensed programme. I focus on that.
Ten Hag admitted he doesn’t know if he would consider playing Sancho for United ever again
Ten Hag said at the press conference that he ‘doesn’t think this subject is important’ when asked if Sancho had apologised
You are without Antony and have taken a decision not to play Sancho. How important for you as a manager to set the standards and stick by them even when it might be against the team?
ETH: You say something really important, but it’s in favour of the team. That is what my decision is based on. That is not about me, and to be strict. No. This is in favour of the team.
Even though it might be detrimental in terms of not having players available?
ETH: Yes, even then.
You’re trying to build team spirit here and you gave Sancho a break last season. He’s not basically calling you a liar, he did call you a liar. Does that show what kind of personality he is, and he shouldn’t be around the team?
ETH: Everyone can make his opinion about that. But as I said, he is not available, so he can’t contribute to our performance and our result, so I block it. I go and prepare the team to give the best performance.
But he is causing this distraction. He is a paid employee. His job is to do what he’s being paid for. How can he be allowed to continue like this?
ETH: As a club, as a team we have to deal with that. But once again it is no importance to the coming games, I have to put my energy so that the team to play their best tomorrow, in a week, the coming period. I have to focus on that.
Ten Hag repeatedly tried to divert the attention of the press conference onto United’s game against Brighton
You have lost two options on the right wing. How problematic is it for a manager not to have those options?
ETH: [Laughs] I think we constructed the squad smart, we have many options there, so I don’t worry about that. We have options to play there.
United have lost two of their first four games. How hard is it as a manager to focus on the game when you have these off-the-field incidents?
ETH: You say in your question, how important it is to focus, that is what it is about. Getting the right performance. That is the most important in this part of the season.
So you see the progress in our game, from the first game to now. I know from experience the first part of the season is always a struggle. To fight, to battle, to get the points in.
But most important is that you get progress in the performance, that is what you see, definitely. You see good pattern, we are increasing, that gives me confidence.
You’re only human. The players are only human. Surely this is last thing you need?
ETH: Yes, but I know of course, with fans it’s the talk, with you it’s the talk, but with the players it is not the talk. They want to perform. For players who didn’t have so much opportunities, they get their opportunity, so they are even happy. T his is their chance to come into the team. So, as I said, we had a really good spirit, everyone is focussing on this game, and the coming games.
Since you’ve been here, you’ve tried to keep a lot in-house when it comes to handling players. What was the reason for going public with your criticism of Jadon and is he not entitled to use his own platform to express his opinion?
ETH: I am always honest. You have to keep things inside, but you can’t… when I am asked the question, I will be honest.
That suggests this wasn’t an isolated incident, it was a build-up over time. You don’t seem like the type of manager to say something for no reason. Were you trying to send a message?
United have won two and lost two of their opening four games of the Premier League season
ETH: Once again it is about the team. I explained something about the team, individuals in the team, that’s what I expressed, nothing else.
Once again we are in a good place, we are highly motivated, really looking forward, players coming back from international games, most of them you saw really good results, really good performances, all the players who were on international duties, now they are back. We were really disappointed from Arsenal for the result, but not the performance.
How has this crazy period been for you? Has it been important to have the club’s backing?
ETH: I had some time to deal with that. But most important what I did to analyse the four games we had, which place we are. As I said, we are in a good place. I am sure, when we keep continuing this progress the results will come.
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