Man Utd: Innocent Sancho in XI of players axed by Ten Hag after ‘scapegoat’ sticks it to ‘interim’ manager

Lewis Oldham
Man Utd transfer
Jadon Sancho alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

Jadon Sancho is back where he’s seen as an angel. He joins this XI of Manchester United players who have been axed by manager Erik ten Hag since he arrived in 2022.

The Dutch head coach inherited a hot mess of a squad (as this below-par XI proves) and while he is being heavily backed to be the next Premier League manager sacked, his job of ousting United’s unwanted squad players is far from finished.

To say that Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo and David De Gea did not leave Man Utd on the best of terms is a pretty big understatement, but they are the standout players in this XI, which sees Fred and former Man Utd flop Paul Pogba reunite in midfield…


GK: David De Gea
The goalkeeper’s contract dispute with Man Utd dragged on throughout the 2022/23 campaign. While De Gea often insisted that he would prefer to pen a new deal, the club were not so keen due to the increased frequency with which he made mistakes.

A new deal on a reduced salary was on the table for De Gea, but talks broke down after Man Utd reportedly withdrew this offer and asked him to accept even lower terms.

Andre Onana is yet to fully prove his worth as De Gea’s long-term replacement, while the Spain international remains a free agent despite reports linking him with a move to Newcastle United.


RB: Axel Tuanzebe
I was short of options at right-back but amid reports claiming Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be offloaded in a swap deal with Michael Olise, Tuenzebe may soon be booted out of this XI.

It is now four years since his impressive loan spell at Aston Villa. At the time, he was being billed as a future captain for Man Utd. But since then, he has endured a nightmare few seasons that have seen him play very little whether that be for the Premier League giants or out on loan.

Tuanzebe has been hampered by injuries as he’s been restricted to just short of 100 appearances in senior football. And at the age of 26, this is nowhere near enough and the defender has struggled to make a substantial impact in the Championship with Ipswich Town this season.


CB: Eric Bailly
While Maguire and Victor Lindelof languished on the sidelines for much of last season, Bailly was even further down the pecking order and on loan at Ligue 1 outfit Marseille before he left Man Utd permanently in the summer to join Besiktas.

United’s centre-back situation has given Ten Hag a serious headache this campaign as he has been without Lisandro Martinez for several months due to injury.

But the Red Devils would not be too gutted about letting Bailly leave, as Besiktas excluded the injury-prone defender from their squad due to ‘poor performances’ and he had his contract terminated a few days before the January transfer window opened. Now back with Villarreal, he’s proven that the grass is not always greener after departing Old Trafford.


CB: Phil Jones
Bailly’s injury woes have been pretty bad, but Jones is in a whole league of his own in this department.

The Englishman has been reduced to a meme before his United exit, but he was once a steady defender and he warrants credit for always giving it his all when some of his teammates refused.

Jones’ exit had been a long time coming before it was formalised upon the expiry of his contract last summer. He’s now using the pretty pennies he earned at Man Utd to pay for his coaching badges. For his sake, let’s hope he turns out to be a better manager than Wayne Rooney.


LB: Alex Telles
Signed in 2020 to compete with Luke Shaw, Telles was trounced by the England international in the battle for starts in the left-back berth at Old Trafford.

His status at Man Utd was hampered further by Ten Hag’s insistence on a raid for Netherlands full-back Tyrell Malacia, who – like Antony – has not been much good for the Premier League side.

Telles will be remembered as a flop in England, but he is now earning obscene money as a teammate of Ronaldo at Al Nassr so he’ll be content enough.


CM: Paul Pogba
From one player who has just moved to Saudi Arabia to one who will surely be wishing he made his way to the Middle East before he royally messed up his career upon his return to Juventus in 2022.

The £89m signing of Pogba is a pretty clear symbol of a broken Man Utd regime that Ten Hag is attempting (somewhat unsuccessfully) to fix. The midfielder – who never seemed fully content following his return to England – has immense natural ability, but he mostly left fans demanding more. Especially after showing what he is capable of when representing France.

Pogba and Man Utd was a partnership that was ultimately never meant to be and his injury-disrupted season for Juventus in 2022/23 preceded revelations relating to the midfielder returning a failed drug test. Now facing a maximum ban of four years, his footballing career is all but over.


CM: Fred
Fred’s summer move to Fenerbahce marked the end of the McFred era at Man Utd and football will never be the same again…

The Brazil international did actually prove to be one of United’s better signings since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, but this is a damning indictment of the club’s awful transfer record. A grafter, but – like many of the club’s recent additions – he did not fully live up to expectations.


RW: Jadon Sancho
“Jadon Sancho has no discipline problem at all. I have no idea who invented that story.”

Words there from Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke, who insisted Sancho is innocent ahead of his second debut for the Bundesliga side over the weekend. In that game, the Englishman immediately stuck it to Ten Hag by grabbing an assist shortly after coming on as a substitute.

Ten Hag’s reign at Old Trafford will likely be defined by how he dealt with various player controversies. Regarding Sancho, the player never did enough to justify his £73m price tag but with the winger role a problem position for United, the Dutchman could have done with him during their injury crisis.

After refusing to put egos aside for the betterment of the club, the “scapegoat” will likely outlast the “interim manager” at Man Utd. 

MAILBOX: Man Utd blame lies mostly with Erik ten Hag and his ‘donut formation’


CAM: Jesse Lingard
Hindsight is a wonderful thing in life and this is also the case in football. And if Lingard looks back now, he will surely know that he should have signed for West Ham permanently after his superb loan in 2021.

Since then, Lingard spent another year on Man Utd’s periphery before flopping for Nottingham Forest during his inconsequential spell for Steve Cooper’s side in 2022/23.

Still without a club following his Forest exit and being mocked daily by United legend Paul Scholes, Lingard’s career has descended into a joke and that really needn’t have been the case.


LW: Anthony Elanga
Forest paid around £15m to land Elanga during what was a far more reserved summer for their standards after making 30+ signings in 2022/23.

Elanga was one of United’s better players during the 2021/22 season, but that says a lot about how poor the team were as a whole during the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick-inspired disaster year.

Another player who was not quite good enough for Man Utd, more sales like this are necessary this month if Ten Hag is going to get anyone through the door.


ST: Cristiano Ronaldo
It was always going to end in tears.

It is often a risk to return to a former club and Ronaldo has shown that this trope can even impact one of the best players of all time.

Admittedly, Ronaldo’s first season back at Man Utd was superb personally, but they were a much more cohesive team without him involved in 2022/23 and the forward’s heightened ego could not handle this fall from grace.

Ten Hag gave Ronaldo more than enough chances to redeem himself after his acts of petulance, but the 38-year-old man-child was not having it and his infamous interview with his biggest fan (Piers Morgan) was the final straw that resulted in his ill-fated exit and move to Saudi Arabia. So much for his obsession to join a club competing in the Champions League…