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Ten Hag is a gladiator taking shots for Man Utd but he's losing control

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I CANNOT picture a scenario where Erik ten Hag is Manchester United manager next season — and you know what, I think he would secretly agree.

He has spent a lot of money on players that haven’t worked and as a result United are falling further and further behind their main rivals.

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has shown a lot of toughness this season

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Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has shown a lot of toughness this seasonCredit: Reuters
Troy Deeney doesn't expect Ten Hag to stay on as Man Utd manager

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Troy Deeney doesn’t expect Ten Hag to stay on as Man Utd managerCredit: Rex

So, there is a part of me that actually respects what he is doing right now in his press conferences with the media — fighting back.

He is putting on his gladiator armour, swinging his sword and taking some arrows to the chest trying to shield his stars like a protective dad.

It is him against the world — and perhaps with one eye on his next job — he wants to make it clear the problems at United do not just stop with him.

But in doing so, with  personal pride kicked around, he’s losing control.

He has banned newspapers and outlets on several occasions. How is that a good thing? Tell me one positive that comes from that? It doesn’t make sense.

I remember Sir Alex Ferguson using that tactic but he had won a lot and was a powerful figure in the game, not someone who has only just come to the Premier League.

Is Ten Hag really sitting there and saying, “You’re all saying nasty things about me, so you’re banned?”

He spoke at length after the FA Cup semi-final against Coventry about how harshly treated United were, calling the reports “embarrassing”.

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But you are Man United and you were 3-0 up against a Coventry team who haven’t made the play-offs this year — and you nearly lost it. How can it be reported in any other way? If you haven’t played well, just admit it, own it and move on.

And you know how to take back control? Play well and win games.
I know a few United fans who now just don’t believe a word Ten Hag says.

Who could be Man Utd’s next manager after Ten Hag?

It has all the hallmarks of a boss digging his heels in and saying: “Look, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, I can be powerful if I want to. I can put my foot down.”

There are times when this ploy works, it can galvanise a dressing room and show that their boss is fighting for them. But you’re taking a massive risk.

There will always be a split of players who agree and disagree with what you’re doing.

I reckon right now there is a 70-30 split in that dressing room, and even if that goes in your favour, that’s still a big chunk of your squad who believe that you don’t have a clue.

And I would imagine the likes of Casemiro and Raphael Varane, who have played at a far superior level to any of their team-mates, are thinking: “What are we doing here?”

They’ve played at the biggest club in the world in Real Madrid and that’s not how they conduct themselves.

Have to control the narrative

United captain Bruno Fernandes has hinted in an interview recently he may leave and wants to feel loved. Who at Madrid would ever do that?

Once you’ve lost people, you can bring them back a little bit but, at the first sign of another crack, it will all come back up.

Look, I know how tough it can be to deal with the media when things aren’t going well, or people don’t know the full story of what is going on in the background.

I experienced it with Forest Green. It takes a toll on you and your family.

But he is an experienced boss. He should be able to control a narrative.

And when you start banning the media, all it does is encourage players to read and take note of those reports.

Focusing on the wrong things

The players  will be thinking: “Hang on, you tell us not to worry about external noises, yet you must read it because you’re banning media outlets.”

Every player needs to be focused on their job, not what is being written.

It ends up creating more of a divide.

Ten Hag has the feel of a man who is paranoid about what is being said by others and where it is coming from, but that happens at every club.

People like Ten Hag want to control everything, especially when bad things are being said.

If you use the media to your advantage, you can’t complain when it goes against you. That’s the way of the world.

It is indicative of the issues at United right now — Ten Hag is focusing on all the wrong things.

Pundits verdict on Ten Hag’s future

Where do the pundits stand on Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United future

Jamie Carragher – Sacked

“I don’t see how Erik ten Hag stays. It’s just performance after performance.”

Gary Neville – Stay if he wins the FA Cup

“To sack a manager who’s won two trophies in his first two seasons at the club I think would be extreme.”

Louis Saha – On the fence

“I don’t see it as clearly but they need changes from the players but they need changes from him as well.”

Alan Shearer – Sacked

“I believe the future of the Man Utd manager is already determined. Even if they win the FA Cup I think he’s gone.”

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