Jadon Sancho, Manchester United’s talented but moody winger, has seriously defied Erik ten Hag’s authority with his intemperate social media post. He’s called into question the integrity and honesty of the Manchester United manager. There has to be some internal disciplinary action against Sancho but there also has to be some proper communication between manager and player for the good of the team.

Sancho’s a gifted attacking player but if he wants to get back in the United side he needs to stop challenging the manager, give even more in training and fight his way back into the side. Ten Hag is away from Carrington at present, having a few days off at the start of the international break, but when he returns he needs to sit down and talk with Sancho. “With” not “to”; it has to be a two-way conversation.

When Ten Hag’s father Hennie set out in business, eventually employing 100 people, one of his slogans was “unity”. His son’s club are United by name, but not united by nature at the moment. Manager and player have to work on that for the good of the club. There are already too many dramas at the “Theatre of Dreams”.

In 59 Premier League games for United, Sancho has managed nine goals and six assists, not enough for a player of his stature

In 59 Premier League games for United, Sancho has managed nine goals and six assists, not enough for a player of his stature


Ten Hag may reflect on whether he was wrong to call Sancho out publicly. He explained the winger’s absence from the squad that travelled to Arsenal on Sunday with: “Jadon, on his performances in training, we did not select him.” Sancho promptly responded by pointing out he did not enjoy being made a “scapegoat”, that he had not underperformed in training, but that he respected the coaches. What should have been a private exchange in a back office at Carrington is now all over the back pages. But Ten Hag has that approach that if he is asked a question, he answers. He’s honest.

In private at Carrington, Sancho needs to discuss with Ten Hag his frustration about reports that he lacks professionalism, particularly around punctuality, when he believes he is training hard. Sancho felt he had performed well at Carrington in the build-up to the Arsenal trip, but was then omitted. This is one reason why he reacted so emotionally in that social media riposte to Ten Hag.

But it was wrong and many believe Sancho is now on borrowed time at United. If he is to stay, Sancho first needs to look and learn from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s mature reaction to initially being left out in the cold by Ten Hag. When Ten Hag arrived at Old Trafford in May 2022, he doubted Wan-Bissaka’s ability to contribute to the more creative game he wanted from his defenders. There was even talk of United cutting their losses on the £50 million right back and moving him on. Ten Hag gave Wan-Bissaka four minutes against Liverpool on August 22, 2022, but that was it for 121 days. He stayed on the bench, also unavailable for eight games with a back problem, until starting against Burnley in the EFL Cup on December 21.

So here’s the moral for Sancho. Look at how your demanding manager was won over by Wan-Bissaka working so hard in training, not complaining at being overlooked, staying off social media, earning his chance, seizing it and becoming established in the side. By being professional.

Wan-Bissaka was out of the United side for 121 days before managing to convince Ten Hag

Wan-Bissaka was out of the United side for 121 days before managing to convince Ten Hag


Wan-Bissaka worked with the manager rather than against him. Once back in, Wan-Bissaka has flown, playing 36 of United’s subsequent 44 games, and become one of Ten Hag’s most important and consistent players. Wan-Bissaka would be in the England squad currently gathering at St George’s Park if Gareth Southgate did not have so many other elite options at right back.

It is now almost two years since Sancho played the last of his 23 games for England. That’s not Ten Hag’s fault. Southgate clearly doesn’t rate him currently. Sancho has slipped so far off the England radar that I can’t remember the last time his name was raised with Southgate at an England squad announcement. He has delivered some strong performances, notably against Ukraine in Rome in the delayed Euro 2020. But memories have faded.

If his United career is not similarly to fade away, Sancho has to make his performances in training so elite that Ten Hag has to pick him. Sancho is good enough; he showed that at Borussia Dortmund before his £73 million move to United in July 2021. He was hugely effective down either flank at Dortmund (occasionally centrally) and most prolific with his right foot, often breaking into the left-hand side of the area to score. In 104 Bundesliga appearances, he scored 38 times and contributed 45 assists. In 59 Premier League games for United, Sancho has managed nine goals and six assists. That’s poor for a player of his quality even if the team have been struggling for confidence. He’s not been a success and many United fans would not be heartbroken if Sancho disappeared through the next window.

In their meeting, Sancho could legitimately ask why Ten Hag favours Antony, a player he recruited from his old club Ajax but who underperforms in games. Antony does work harder out of possession than Sancho, but the Brazilian has still been a disappointment since his £82 million move last year.

Sancho could reflect that if a player deserves a chance, he can get it under Ten Hag. Look at 18-year-old Dan Gore, impressing as a ball-winner, playmaker and leader in the under-21s, training well with the first team, catching Ten Hag’s eye and now included on the bench against Nottingham Forest and Arsenal. Gore’s promotion partly reflects United’s injury issues, and the ridiculous delay in getting Sofyan Amrabat in, but it also shows the manager’s admiration for a player’s determination.

The same with another midfield player, Hannibal Mejbri, again fighting for a chance, again making the bench at the Emirates. Sport is primarily performance-related. “You have to reach a level every day at Manchester United,” Ten Hag observed when asked about Sancho’s absence from the match-day squad on Sunday.

The manager also does not shy away from confronting players in private and demanding they improve. At 13, and a promising footballer representing the Twente region, Ten Hag went on Dutch TV discussing player development with the legendary Johan Cruyff. Callow of age but confident of attitude, Ten Hag voiced his opinion that it was best if coaches did not shout at young players.

Cruyff listened politely as Ten Hag then added that it was fine to call out established players. “If they keep making the same mistakes,’’ he said, “you should be able to confront them.” True to his word, Ten Hag has now taken Sancho to task. But he’s not some heartless martinet of a manager. He is sensitive to players’ mental health. He was compassionate about Sancho’s vulnerable mindset last year and gave him six weeks off to reboot.

However aggrieved Sancho feels about Ten Hag’s comments, and their public nature, he does need to look at himself. At noon today, England players run on to the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch at St George’s Park in preparation for the Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine in Wroclaw and then the prestigious friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park.

If there were a pecking order of English wide players, there’s a full XI that Sancho is up against: 1 Bukayo Saka; 2 Marcus Rashford; 3 Jack Grealish; 4 Phil Foden; 5 James Maddison (Southgate points out he can play there and at No 10); 6 Eberechi Eze (can play left wing); 7 Raheem Sterling; 8 Jarrod Bowen; 9 Emile Smith Rowe (he’s played wide three times for Southgate); 10 Harvey Barnes; 11 Anthony Gordon (who will get promoted to the seniors at some point).

It’s a competitive world and, as a competitive individual, Sancho has to raise his game and compete. He has the ability. It’s about attitude now. Otherwise, he has to go.