5 off-field sagas that Erik ten Hag has encountered at Manchester United ft Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho


Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United stint has been an eventful affair so far. Notably, the Dutch manager has fallen out with superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.

In his first season at the club (2022-23), Ten Hag guided the Red Devils to the EFL Cup and the FA Cup final. He also helped them secure a top-four Premier League finish, seeing the Manchester giants back to the UEFA Champions League.

However, results haven’t been easy to come by this term. United have been knocked out of the Champions League (group stages) and the EFL Cup (round of 16). They are also languishing in the eighth spot of the league table (35 points from 22 matches).

Ten Hag has also had to deal with some off-field issues that made headlines in the media. Apart from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, he recently had to handle a disciplinary situation involving Marcus Rashford.

Off-field controversies have been a prevalent issue during Ten Hag’s Manchester United tenure. In this listicle, we take a look at the top five sagas that the Dutch manager had to take over outside the pitch.

#1 Cristiano Ronaldo dispute

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United’s top scorer for the 2021-22 season, missed pre-season for the 2022-23 campaign due to family issues.

However, Ronaldo was also angling for a move away from Old Trafford. He even left the stadium before full-time during a pre-season game against Rayo Vallecano.

He then became a squad player under Ten Hag and the Dutch manager cited that the five-time Ballon d’Or needed more preparation after missing pre-season.

During a game against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, Ronaldo refused to come on as a last-ditch substitute and stormed down the tunnel before full-time. He was suspended for a game as a result.

The ticking bomb exploded when Ronaldo criticized Ten Hag and the club’s policies in an explosive interview with UK TV personality Piers Morgan. His contract was eventually terminated via mutual consent in November 2022.

#2 Jadon Sancho fallout

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Sancho and Erik ten Hag

Since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund in 2021, Jadon Sancho never replicated the form he displayed in German football.

Under Ten Hag, Sancho was a squad player more often than not. He was not in the squad when Manchester United suffered a 1-3 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates earlier in the 2023-24 season.

When quizzed about Sancho’s omission, Ten Hag told the media that the player hadn’t been training at the desired level.

Sancho reciprocated the comments by putting out a statement on social media, which he later deleted. The winger, however, refused to apologize to his manager, a condition Ten Hag set to reintegrate him into the team.

Sancho remained ousted and trained personally before eventually re-joining Borussia Dortmund on loan in January. Sancho’s loan deal, though, doesn’t have a buy clause and he will return to Manchester United at the end of the season.

#3 Marcus Rashford’s Belfast nightclub incident

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Manchester United v Arsenal FC – Premier League

In Erik ten Hag’s first season as the Manchester United manager, Marcus Rashford was the team’s attacking leader after Cristiano Ronaldo’s mid-season departure.

He scored 30 goals across competitions and was the team’s top scorer. This season, Rashford has suffered a dramatic drop in form, scoring only five times in 27 matches.

Recently, the attacker called in sick ahead of an FA Cup clash against Newport County. However, pictures of Rashford in a Belfast nightclub earlier that night percolated on social media.

This came three months after Rashford was spotted partying hours after United’s 3-0 loss in the Manchester derby. Rashford missed the FA Cup match and the club issued a statement saying he was ill and had been training alone in Manchester.

Ten Hag, previously obliging to take care of the issue, later informed the media that the matter was internally solved after Rashford took responsibility for his actions. The Englishman was reportedly fined two weeks’ wage.

Rashford has since returned to the team and scored the opener in Manchester United’s 4-3 Premier League away win against Wolves.

#4 Mason Greenwood dilemma

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Greenwood in action for United

Mason Greenwood was cleared of the sexual abuse allegations against him in February 2023. The attacker was also permitted to return to professional football.

However, Manchester United remained doubtful about reintegrating him into the team as they feared fans’ repercussions.

Ten Hag never gave a public statement about Greenwood. However, he reportedly wanted to have Greenwood back in the team and so did former chief executive Richard Arnold.

United, though, reversed their stance after facing public backlash. Greenwood was loaned to Getafe and has since shone for the La Liga club. Ten Hag, on the other hand, has seen his team struggle to find consistency in front of the goal.

#5 Manchester United takeover situation

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Manchester United v Brentford FC – Premier League

The Glazers made a bombshell announcement four hours after it was stated that Cristiano Ronaldo would leave the club. The Americans revealed that they were looking for new investment or a full sale of the club they had owned since 2005.

The news excited fans as they had grown dissatisfied over the Glazers’ handling of their beloved club. The takeover saga, however, continued to rumble for more than a year without any solution.

On 2023 Christmas Eve, 13 months after the Glazers’ announcement, it was confirmed that British Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group had acquired a minority 25% stake in the club.

Erik ten Hag has repeatedly said that the takeover saga didn’t have an impact on his team. The consensus, however, is that Manchester United could have had a better direction, especially in the transfer market, if the process hadn’t taken 13 months.

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava

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