Yesterday, Manchester United ended their terrible season with a defeat against Crystal Palace. The site is huge for Erik ten Hag who will recover a locker room on the verge of implosion.
“Exciting”, here is the word used by Erik ten Hag to evoke the mission that awaits him at Manchester United. For his first interview as coach of the Red Devils, the Dutchman, interviewed by the club’s official website, was very motivated. “I’m really looking forward to working at this club with a huge history. We want you to bring it back to where it belongs. First, we want to make the fans proud. Second, we are currently in a difficult situation. It’s a big challenge. I want to build and build a team where everyone fights for the other, which is united and which will have results”.
Ambitious, the former coach of Ajax, however, arrives in a club that looks like a field of ruins. Sixth in the Premier League and absent from the next edition of the Champions League, Manchester United has had a disastrous season on the pitch but also behind the scenes. It’s no secret that the atmosphere within the club and the Mancunian locker room was very bad. This Monday, the Manchester Evening News made some great revelations on the subject. It all started quite early. From the appointment of Ralf Rangnick on November 29, tongues were loosened.
The Rangnick choice was not understood
Several close to the club did not understand why an interim coach had been appointed, even admitting that the season was already over in early December. the MEN explains that since the departure of José Mourinho, MU have never had a manager with sufficient authority. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt like a “substitute teacher“, which is ultimately Rangnick, who only came on a mission for a few months. The Austrian technician has never really been unanimous in the Red Devils locker room, already in a bad state after the passage of OGS according to the English media.
Indeed, the Manchester Evening News recounts that a player, who did not appreciate Solskjaer’s criticism in October, said the manager was “finished“. A month later, OGS was sacked. Another interesting anecdote, the English media explains that towards the end of his mandate, the Norwegian coach had gathered his players and asked them if they still trusted him. All had avoided the contact with the coach, on an ejection seat. The legacy left by Solskjaer was therefore a dressing room under tension. And it was amplified under the orders of Ralf Rangnick.
The players were against the coach
This last “Affected the majority of the players, who tried to blame him”according to MEN. The Mancunians did not appreciate his media outings, especially when he said that the team needed a “open heart surgery“. His methods and choices have also been talked about. One player said his decisions were “bad“. Another complained that he “talked to him like a child” and had not cared for his advice. A young player was nicknamed “the professor’s pet (from Rangnick)” by a former element of the locker room, competing with him for the position. Some have found Anthony Elanga’s playing time important.
This tension has accompanied Manchester United all season and has been noticeable on the pitch. the Manchester Evening News indicates that the in-fighting went public when a player scored and barely celebrated. “An enthusiastic teammate encouraged him to smile at a nearby camera, which only infuriated the player, irritated by his teammate’s apparent obsequiousness”. Among the players to take dearly, we find Harry Maguire. Fans and players have lost faith in him.
Maguire pruned, CR7 praised
the MEN goes a little further: “He became such an easy target that a teammate blatantly leaked a story. Eric Bailly spelled out Maguire’s privileges and wondered how he could keep starting while underperforming. Another player claimed Maguire was ‘not good enough’. Several teammates agree that Bruno Fernandes’ attitude is also “a problem”. Regarding Maguire, he was not invited last February to a meeting with the team’s executives by Rangnick when he was captain. This had caused tension. Paul Pogba had also taken advantage of this meeting to apologize to the coach, not wishing to undermine his authority.
In all this slump, Cristiano Ronaldo is doing quite well. The Portuguese, who vetoed the arrival of Antonio Conte, was one of the most involved this season. He was hit in defeats, more than others. It was he who held the locker room during the last weeks of OGS’s mandate. The young players appreciated his presence. Others, including Maguire, were intimidated by him which would have explained their poor performances. A little too easy. Anyway, Erik ten Hag will have his work cut out for him. Because it is a divided team that he will recover.
A toxic locker room
“The United team is a toxic mix of backbiting and nastiness. One player called the atmosphere “toxic” and Jesse Lingard wasn’t shocked by that. Paul Scholes has posted a description of the dressing room and called it a “disaster” after Arsenal lost. After some contracts expire, the nest will be more sparse but some vipers will still crawl. Several players still under contract want to leave because they feel they have been let go by the former manager and it has driven a wedge between them and the club.. In addition to being a trainer, Ten Hag will have to play the service firefighters to put out the fire within MU.