It has been a week since Sancho was left out of the United squad to face Arsenal at the Emirates – a game they eventually lost 3-1 – and the same amount of time since Ten Hag criticised his performances in training. “You have to reach a level every day,” the Dutchman said, all but insisting his 73million winger hadn&apost been doing so.
Sancho, rightly or wrongly, hit back at the criticism and claimed he was being made a scapegoat. The timing of his response suggested it was heat of the moment but the fact it is still the pinned post on his X account says otherwise.
Much of the focus has been on Sancho&aposs reaction in recent weeks, but Ten Hag was wrong to single out a player in that manner, especially in the aftermath of such a demoralising defeat. Whether he is trying to force a reaction or at the end of his tether is unknown.
Sir Alex Ferguson wasn&apost afraid to pull out the occasional post-defeat excuse in press conferences. The referee would usually take the brunt, while luck, weather, pitch conditions, shirt colours and fixture schedules all took their fair share of criticism. But it was rarely blind rage, rather a measured approach to take the spotlight off his own players.
“I would not criticise one of my own players publicly,” Ferguson preached in 2009. “When you make public criticism of your players, you damage morale. Your job is to keep it (the dressing room) solid.”
Even Ferguson wasn&apost perfect, however, and the fiery Scot would sometimes break cover to fire at his own. In 2009, he aired his displeasure at Cristiano Ronaldo, saying: “It&aposs hard when a player who wants to entertain doesn&apost get everything his own way.”
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney was the subject of the odd dig on more than one occasion.
But Ferguson always seemed to find the balance, and he also knew which players would react positively. After his jibe at Ronaldo, the Portuguese winger would score arguably the greatest goal of his career in the Champions League quarter-final win against Porto.
Ten Hag and Sancho will likely have talks at some point in the next week with most of the first-team squad away on international duty, but the relationship is frayed.