It wasn’t the first time Ten Hag had opted to axe a star for off-field behaviour. In December 2022 the club terminated the contract of Ronaldo following his explosive interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, where he savagely criticised the Dutchman and the club’s owners.
His approach has proved divisive, with some fans welcoming his ruthless dealings with players, but the ex-Ajax coach has also been criticised for culling stars too readily having presided over 14 defeats this season already. But Ten Hag has warned the rest of his squad that they could also be expelled if they step out of line.
“If you want to perform you need hungry players,” said Ten Hag. “You need players with personalities who are hungry to fight for the badge and fight for this club. And they need to do this in a team.”
And he also insisted that is approach was not a hardline one, implying he only demanded what should be standard procedure. “It’s not about discipline,” he said. “It’s about normal behaviour. That is what you can expect from a top professional.”
Regardless, Ten Hag will be well aware the pressure on his position will ramp up if his side get beaten by Spurs. Already lying ninth and nine points off the top four, and out of Europe, he’s now battling to salvage the season.
But he defiantly shot down the notion he was feeling the heat, arguing: “No, it’s not difficult for me, because I expected from the start of this season that the process can go negative and as a manager you have to stay positive and get the process back in the right direction.
“In the meantime you have to be pragmatic. Get as many points as possible, and wait until the players are fit – and in the meantime work on your team, work on individuals to go to a higher level, set conditions for the team performing better and the results will rise again.”
United are expected to do more business in the January after getting Sancho off the books, albeit temporarily. The likes of Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial are also in-line to be released, given they can otherwise leave for free when their contracts expire join the summer.