Erik ten Hag has ‘launched a crackdown on ponderous play’ in Manchester United training as one of six keys to ‘return to the attacking football of the Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson years’.
That’s according to The Sun, who reveal what the ‘tough-talking boss’ has laid out to his players in the first week of training at United.
With Steve McClaren alongside him, the report claims Ten Hag has made six things clear in training thus far:
- ‘He will not tolerate sideways and backwards passing — subbing off players in training who do NOT play forward.’
- ‘Players must improve on their fitness and ‘unacceptable’ body language from last term.’
- ‘Dressing-room cliques are to be totally eradicated.’
- ‘Youngsters will get their chance to impress and oust senior players.’
- ‘Mega-money stars’ medal hauls and salaries count for nothing in his selection plans, only training performances.’
- ‘The former Ajax boss has launched a crackdown on the ponderous play that infuriated United fans by putting players on the naughty step if they do not pass forwards.’
The sixth point looks suspiciously like the first, but you get the idea: Don’t pass backwards and don’t be a d*ck.
A source told The Sun: “There has been a lot of attention on one- and two-touch passing drills where players must try to go forward.
“If they go sideways or backwards too often he stops the game and the player is taken off for a minute or two.
“It is just the start, but the players are tuned in. When he speaks, everyone — absolutely everyone — listens.
“The training sessions have been tough but they are also enjoyable.
“Plenty of one-touch, two-touch, quick football and forward-thinking play. He tells them that the best form of defence is possession.
“He wants to tire out the opponents by keeping the ball and moving it quickly.
“The quality isn’t there just yet because it’s early in the pre-season.
“Plus, it requires a lot of practice to build up the levels of quality needed for such a strategy.
“Some players have struggled with their touch and their passes but Ten Hag and the rest of the coaching staff have been encouraging.
“Lots of the players had a really bad end to the season and then it’s tough to relax and unwind over the summer as they are frustrated.
“Some weren’t looking forward to coming back because the dressing-room mood has been bad, but that fog has lifted and they are enjoying themselves again.
“There is a spring in everyone’s step and they feel united.”
Ten Hag is also said to have told the players their body language was “unacceptable” at the end of last season, that they need to improve their fitness levels, and called for an end for dressing-room cliques.