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Erik ten Hag set to take over a broken dressing room at Man United

Erik ten Hag will inherit a broken locker room culture plagued by internal rivalries, with a level of mistrust between players that has shocked those involved at Manchester United.

While Ralf Rangnick admitted in his press conference on Friday that the team had lacked team spirit, mentality and togetherness, privately, there are people at United who take the situation much more seriously.

The lowest point in a season of fractures came in the run-up to the Manchester derby in March. With a hectic trip to the Etihad on the horizon, given that United had been so badly beaten at Old Trafford, one player chose that moment to express his unflattering thoughts on Harry Maguire to a newspaper.

Erik ten Hag will inherit a broken dressing room at Manchester United this summer

Erik ten Hag will inherit a broken dressing room at Manchester United this summer

Harry Maguire has been questioned by his teammates for his performances this year

Harry Maguire has been questioned by his teammates for his performances this year

The report stated that the United captain had been ‘questioned in private’ by team members who felt his ‘performances had not met club standards’. There was little doubt about the assessment: Maguire has had a miserable season.

There was also no issue with the veracity of the report in that it clearly came from a player. But the attack was thinly veiled, and most players and coaching staff believe they know the identity of Maguire’s anonymous critic.

The moment was astonishing, the article published two days before City’s game, which would inevitably end badly for United, thrashed 4-1 and barely getting a touch in the second half.

And the effect was poisonous. There is understandably a level of mistrust between colleagues that will be difficult to rebuild, spreading like a virus, spreading exponentially with top management unhappy with the player they believed was behind the report, given that he himself is not without blame for a awful season.

If it had been an isolated incident, it would have been manageable. But there have been several cases. The briefing against Maguire was just the worst example of the feud between individuals.

To some at the club, it appears that the players have sensed the power vacuum and exploited it, as they plunge into the blame game as the season progresses. It would be unimaginable for a Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola player or his agents to report in this way today.

Ralf Rangnick's training methods have not been popular with some players.

Ralf Rangnick’s training methods have not been popular with some players.

The discontent in the dressing room is not a secret. Paul Scholes recently said, “I had a quick chat with Jesse [Lingard] the other day and I’m sure he won’t mind if I tell him he said the locker room is a mess. That came after the 3-1 loss at Arsenal, which came after the 4-0 loss at Liverpool.

Juan Mata, one of the many players featured for the last time today, hinted at something similar in his interview with The Athletic yesterday: ‘We need a reset in the club culture.

The standards, what it means to represent this club for any player, what gives you the right to play for Manchester United, what is expected on and off the pitch. Many things must be made clear: this is Manchester United and anyone who does not meet those standards is not up to par and should not be here. That is as clear as I can be.

‘Certain standards were not met. Whether it’s attitude, training, off the pitch, which doesn’t include the players, we haven’t been good enough.”

His team selections have also come under scrutiny during his interim stint in charge.

His team selections have also come under scrutiny during his interim stint in charge.

Rangnick met with veteran players to try to work things out. Some sensible suggestions appeared. One player told Rangnick that if he picked his team earlier in the week and they spent more time working on form, he could help. However, that was immediately countered by another player whose opinion was that training should be fun.

Ultimately, there was no way to reconcile those extremes. There will be competitive pressures on Ten Hag as to how to run the club and there has been resistance from some to heavyweight and demanding tactical sessions. Given that Rangnick’s style demands that kind of work and the players assembled are not suited to the intensity he demands, United were perhaps forced to sport a team designed by a committee, a team made up of four different managers, each with your own style. But Ten Hag’s philosophy also requires attention to detail, tactical sessions and intensity, so his first challenge will be gaining buy-in from the team.

Another sentiment expressed by senior players was that the club had too many Instagram-conscious, image-conscious players over achievements. To what extent that was just a complaint from an older generation and to what extent it reflects a genuine psychological weakness at the start of elite sports is a moot point. But it was a genuinely held point of view.

What is clear from sources at the club is that the season was doomed from the start. The decision to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back has dominated every twist and turn. It was obvious to any observer that with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the previous season they had a clearer idea of ​​what was expected and how they would play, which seemed effective at times. That disappeared with the arrival of Ronaldo. Not only can Ronaldo be blamed, but clearly a team built around a 37-year-old would have to compensate by running more than normal, which hasn’t happened. It seems that some players do not accept the concept of running more to accommodate their superstar.

Cristiano Ronaldo has cut a frustrated figure for much of the season at Old Trafford

Cristiano Ronaldo has cut a frustrated figure for much of the season at Old Trafford

At all times, it seemed that insurmountable obstacles conspired to obstruct Rangnick. Mason Greenwood was initially his favorite player. He is now suspended due to his arrest for rape, assault and death threat. His departure mitigated the problems in attack, where Marcus Rashford has stagnated, Jadon Sancho has only impressed in fragments and Edinson Cavani has had to travel to Uruguay.

The German was surprised by Michael Carrick’s decision to leave. He had been relying on Carrick and his fellow trainer Kieran McKenna to be by his side. And without the authority of a long-term manager, it has been impossible for Rangnick to be himself. Indeed, the Premier League has seen a watered-down version of Rangnick, where commitment has become the watchword of a man for whom that would normally be anathema.

The baton now passes to Ten Hag, who has flown to London to watch the last game of the season at Crystal Palace. United were seventh when Rangnick arrived and will finish sixth or seventh today. That’s the size of Ten Hag’s task. The club is in stasis.

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