Manchester United’s players have boosted their own chances of success in the second half of the season by reportedly responding positively to the arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe as an investor at Old Trafford. While Ratcliffe is still awaiting formal clearance from the Premier League over his 25 per cent purchase of the Red Devils, the mood among Erik ten Hag’s squad is claimed to be changing for the better.
United are desperate for some positive results over the coming weeks. A disastrous start to the campaign saw them slump down the Premier League table and they were axed from the Champions League without a semblance of fight.
The arrival of Ratcliffe and his INEOS petrochemicals giant is having the desired effect. It is a credit to the squad that they have welcomed the change, with INEOS reportedly set to take control of the sporting operation.
United’s players have endured vast upheaval in recent years. There have been four managers in six years, handing Ten Hag a squad of mismatched stars all signed by coaches with different playing styles.
A takeover saga that lasted over a year will have taken its toll. Despite that, United qualified for the Champions League last season, won the Carabao Cup and reached the FA Cup final.
That required a steely mental strength that United have sometimes been criticised for lacking. It is a trait that must be rekindled with INEOS planning to oust anyone who does not fall in line with their cultural overhaul.
This season has proved challenging and an FA Cup run, which continues against Newport on Monday, must be prioritised with Champions League qualification out of United’s hands. A clean slate seems to have been applied since Ratcliffe’s proposed investment was confirmed during the Christmas period.
According to the Mirror, United’s players are enjoying training this week and stars have reportedly remarked that the sessions have never been better. Changes in the hierarchy are believed to have put players “on their toes”.
The same report claims informal talks between Ratcliffe and the players at the club’s Carrington training base have boosted morale and players know where they stand. Sir Dave Brailsford, INEOS’s sporting director, reportedly made clear they expect high standards in a speech delivered to Ten Hag’s charges.
Players were given a mini-break in the middle of January to recharge. They have returned refreshed and they are said to have enjoyed their first sessions back.
It bodes well for Ten Hag that the players are happy working under him again. Any murmurs of discontent will surely lead to his departure, with the Dutchman on thin ice.
Fourteen defeats across all competitions, including a worrying nine in the Premier League, leave United in a difficult position heading into the second half of the season. But the arrival of British billionaire Ratcliffe appears to already be having a positive impact.
If the 71-year-old, alongside Brailsford and INEOS’s sport CEO Jean-Claude Blanc, can make major personnel changes before the end of the season, United will soon see light at the end of the tunnel after 10 years in the Premier League wilderness.
Ultimately, they will need the players to buy into their project. That, in positive news for INEOS, already seems to be happening.