Man Utd leaks: No days off for Ten Hag and Ratcliffe in fight to fix ‘no good culture’

Ian Watson
Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag and Sir Jim Ratcliffe have problems with dressing-room leaks.

The poor souls in the Manchester United dressing-room are whining now about being denied extra days off and working too hard. Lads, just shut the f*** up.

Another week, another leak spouting unrelatable nonsense from the Manchester United dressing-room.

This week’s dispatch from football’s most feckless bunch bemoans the lack of a day off – no, an extra day off – in the wake of their edgy win over Luton. If you think you’ve heard it all before, that’s because you have. Roughly 427 times in the last 10 years.

The leaks are usually variations on a similar theme where the manager comes out worst. Of course, it’s never the players that are the problem at Carrington; it’s the poor sod who parks in the manager’s spot and his coaching staff. Many of whom have risen to elite level without seemingly knowing how to put on a training session. Not if you pay attention to the anonymous Cruyffs, Sacchis and Guardiolas in the dressing-room assessing these bibs-and-cones imposters.

‘There is discontent among some players over the intensity of the training sessions and a hard-line approach from the manager and his No.2 Mitchell van der Gaag,’ read the latest dispatch from United’s inner sanctum carried by the Daily Mail. ‘There is a belief that Ten Hag needs to freshen up the sessions and go easier on the players to keep them fit for the rest of the campaign.’

Lads, just shut the f*** up.

Ten Hag and Van der Gaag are just the latest leaders who don’t seem to know what they are doing. Ralf Rangnick, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes, and their assistants, all had their training methods questioned. Too intense, too prescriptive, not intense enough, too easy. Rangnick’s assistant Chris Armas was openly mocked and derided as Ted Lasso, while one of the major gripes was that training started at an inconvenient time. Somewhere else to be, boys?

This generation of players might be no good for United but when they retire, we could reasonably expect a coaching revolution given what they seem to know about putting on a session. ‘Empowerment’ is one of the modern coaching buzzwords, but it has surely gone too far when so many believe there’s so little they can be taught.

Read more: Man Utd clear-out? Where Sir Jim Ratcliffe might sell each of his players…

In Ten Hag’s defence, he would probably prefer to get the balls out more often to implement some of the patterns we see from the sides United claim to rival. Ten Hag was, after all, appointed on the basis of the style he brought to Ajax. But after more than a season and a half in charge, he has obviously concluded that this squad will spend more of their time chasing the ball rather than playing with it and they should prepare accordingly.

That is not to absolve Ten Hag of any blame for the state of United. Perhaps those players might be right in their belief that the manager will go in the summer. But Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s regime are not as easily fooled as the last one. Inside Old Trafford, they will now be seeing what the rest of us have for years – that the squad needs stripping and rebuilding with better technicians and better characters.

The current mob are either too thick to realise that no one wants to hear their gripes about not getting an extra day off or, more likely, the reaction doesn’t concern them. It probably doesn’t even reach them, so insulated are they by their contracts, agents and hangers-on.

True, the leakers are only feeding the insatiable hunger for Manchester United gossip but, lads, just once in a while, take a look around. Read the f***ing room. We don’t get these moans from Manchester City or Liverpool. Christ, we don’t even get them coming from Stamford Bridge. When you’re beaten for self-awareness by Chelsea, you know there is a problem.

It’s the ‘no good culture’ club. Ten Hag clocked it as soon as he walked through the door and perhaps encountered it for himself when he joined his new players on a reprimand run after they were battered 4-0 at Brentford in his second Premier League game in charge during which they ran almost 14km less than the Bees. So Ten Hag cancelled a day off and joined his men while they made up their deficit.

That is said to have made a ‘big impression’ on the squad but the message appears to have been lost somewhat. “When a manager does the punishment – it was supposed to be a day off – it makes us feel he knows he was part of that bad result,” said Bruno Fernandes a few months later amid a decent run of form. “He wanted to make us understand we’re together, in the good moments and in the bad moments. That shows he’s a manager who takes responsibility and not only puts it on the players.”

The sentiment only goes one way, evidently. Though perhaps we shouldn’t blame the players for their perma-abdication of responsibility if that is how it was sold. But others with a modicum of professional pride would have looked inwards and considered their own personal standards, rather than hide behind the collective. And, worse still, the manager who had to watch his new team get the run-around from Brentford.

Erik ten Hag talks to his Manchester United players during the defeat at Brentford.

Can Ten Hag correct the culture? He has been fighting a losing battle without support from those above and below. “The two sources of the leaks have now left the club,” then-CEO Richard Arnold told supporters during Ten Hag’s earliest days in charge, but the Dutchman has been briefed against more times than Meghan Markle.

Help is coming from Ratcliffe and co, but it might be too little, too late for Ten Hag. ‘The f***ers’, as Gary Neville labelled them in December, are likely to force another manager out. Ratcliffe’s priority must be to empower a coach to flip the power balance in a ‘disaster‘, a ‘sh*thole‘ of a dressing room and cull the ‘whingers‘.