Liverpool legend slams Manchester United for trying to ‘destroy’ player through media ‘briefings’

Matt Stead
Manchester United forward Jadon Sancho reacts
Jadon Sancho has been let down by Manchester United, according to one pundit

Manchester United are trying to ‘destroy’ Jadon Sancho through media leaks which have caused his situation with Erik ten Hag to ‘spiral out of control’.

Sancho’s future at Old Trafford is in significant doubt after a public disagreement with manager Ten Hag over standards in training.

Ten Hag has been ‘shocked’ by the escalation of the situation, which the manager feels started with an honest ‘challenge’ to a player he wanted more from.

But the consistent media briefings against Sancho, including a suggestion that team-mates are ‘fed up’ with him and that his demeanour around the club is often perceived as negative, has not helped matters.

There has been some kickback from the Sancho camp, with it claimed that Ten Hag was not cleared to discuss the forward’s mental health struggles publicly last season.

Liverpool legend Fowler feels Sancho is simply trying to protect himself against Manchester United, who ‘have not really played this properly’.

In his Sunday Mirror column, the former striker said: ‘I know it sounds a bit cynical, but I can’t help thinking the entire Jadon Sancho situation stinks suspiciously like a classic case of wanting a player out.

‘I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but it seems to have blown up before the transfer window closed.

‘I don’t think the comments, responses and counter briefing that clearly went on fit into a modern approach to wellbeing for athletes.

‘We are living in a different world now, where everyone has a voice. Even when I was playing, there were very few outlets where a player could respond to criticism of him. Now, everyone has a voice, because social media is omnipresent.

‘So if a manager or a club makes serious accusations about a player not behaving properly – in this case Sancho’s attitude towards training – then he not only has the capacity to hit back, but also the right.

‘I think the days when the club has all the power are gone, and they have to accept that. If a player believes he has been wrongly accused or smeared, then he has the right and the ability to say so.’

READ MORESancho the scapegoat? Ten Hag should not feel obliged to shield Man Utd star

Sancho published a statement on social media immediately after Ten Hag revealed he did not select the player in the defeat to Arsenal because of “his performance in training”.

The England international said: ‘I will not allow people saying things that are completely untrue, I have conducted myself in training very well this week.

‘I believe there are other reasons for this matter that I won’t go into, I’ve been a scapegoat for a long time which isn’t fair!’

Fowler feels Sancho was justified in responding, particularly in light of the Manchester United leaks.

‘If a club feels they have to come out and tell people about it, then that’s a huge worry – because it means your discipline is not working. If there are briefings afterwards, then the whole thing has broken down,’ he continued.

‘That’s not a good look for Manchester United, and definitely not a good sign. I’m not saying go soft on a player, just to respect them too. If there is a dispute, then sort it out in private, not in such a disruptive public way.

‘I wouldn’t criticise Sancho for responding in the way he did. He was merely correcting what he saw as something inaccurate about him.

‘Now it seems like a situation which can only spiral out of control. If Jadon has suffered mental health issues in the past, as I believe Erik ten Hag said in the past, then it’s obvious a club HAS to be sensitive towards that issue.

‘Yet as I say, it seems a classic case of making a player’s position untenable, and forcing him to leave. Which again, is a big mistake…not least because the window closed that weekend, and there is now an destabilising environment at the club.

‘It just means even more pressure on the player, which is the wrong thing to do. Every time he trains, every time he plays or doesn’t play, there will be questions and yet more spotlight. That is the wrong way to have handled it.

‘I obviously don’t know if it’s true that Sancho has now refused to meet with Ten Hag as has been claimed. Probably half of the story is just speculation based on very little. But if it is true, then you can understand it.

‘Clearly from Jadon’s point of view he’s been treated badly, he’s been accused of something he strongly denies.

‘I think United need to step back and have a look at their handling of the situation. This is a £73m player we’re talking about for one thing, and the club are doing their best to destroy that value, it seems.

‘But far more importantly, this is a human being we are talking about, who deserves to be treated with respect. All this briefing and undermining is not the best way to do that.’