Details have emerged over exactly what happened to cause Jadon Sancho’s exile from the Manchester United first team squad.
Sancho has been training away from the squad and not even allowed to use the same dressing room or canteen since a bust-up with manager Erik ten Hag.
The row was sparked when Ten Hag omitted Sancho from the matchday squad to face Arsenal and when asked why at a press conference replied that the player had not applied himself sufficiently in training.
This led Sancho to issue a defence in which he said he was a “scapegoat” and insinuated Ten Hag was lying.
According to The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell, the training in question was in preparation for the Premier League match against last season’s runners up.
As per Whitwell, “as usual under this Manchester United manager, those on the bench or not selected at all were obliged to mimic what Ten Hag’s team would be facing in a practice game.”
Whitwell says that this system meant Sancho knew he was not going to be selected and, in his disappointment, did not commit fully to the training. His pressing, in particular, was cited as an issue.
The reporter says that “the pair [Ten Hag and Sancho] had words.”
Following the public exchange of opinions, Sancho took his social media comments down and there was a meeting between the pair in which the manager took the star through videos of the training session to point out what he saw as his lack of application.
It was hoped this would lead to a mutual understanding and “the details of how close Sancho came to saying sorry are disputed by both sides but, on that Monday after the video session and in the 72 hours that followed, there were talks around exactly how the player could provide contrition.”
This concluded in the decision that Sancho should make a face-to-face apology to the Dutchman, something he has to this day not been prepared to do. There was no request for him to apologise in front of the squad or club officials, as some reports have claimed.
Sancho’s lawyers got involved and that was the point at which both sides’ positions hardened and Ten Hag banished the England star from the first team.
Whitwell reports that Sancho’s “food is brought to him in a lunch box across the walkway,” as he continues to train with academy players, with whom he is described as being “polite”.
As has also been widely reported, the player continues to show his defiance, being snapped at a big party in the USA and at a nightclub in London. He was also spotted playing EA FC 24 during United’s game against Bayern Munich. “These are not actions to endear Ten Hag,” Whitwell notes.
The reporter claims that there are both staff members and players at United who feel that Ten Hag could have handled the situation differently. On the other hand, the reporter says that “team-mates were said to be surprised at Sancho’s … social media post given they knew what had happened in the training session.
“Team-mates have also encouraged Sancho to say sorry to get his career restarted. Some, however, believe Ten Hag was harsh to criticise Sancho publicly,” he said.
Those in the club “hierarchy” support Ten Hag’s actions and believe it was the only course left available to him. It is said that “Sancho’s timekeeping is a recurring issue and his application levels this season have now left this as the only option.”
“If players do not deliver, he will give them second chances and third chances but at some point, he draws the line. Sancho, like Cristiano Ronaldo before him, reached the limit,” he concludes.
Director of football John Murtough and the PFA have both tried to mediate but both sides are now fully entrenched in their positions and an exit from the club seems inevitable.
On that front, Saudi Arabian clubs were sought out in September but Sancho was not willing to go. The links to his old club, Borussia Dortmund, look unlikely to come to fruition as they cannot “afford even half” of his wages and “for all his brilliant performances in Germany, oversleeping and timekeeping were issues at times there too.”
Juventus remain interested and Whitwell even cites Chelsea as a possible destination.
One option that is not mentioned in The Athletic’s article is that United could play hard ball and simply refuse to sell or loan the player until his contract expires in June 2026. This would give Sancho two options: apologise and resume his football career, or not play again for three years, which would effectively ruin that career.
The fact that this avenue is not being discussed could indicate that either it is a gamble United are not willing to take or that Sancho is not considered worth fighting for to that degree.