ERIK TEN HAG faces a battle to keep control of Manchester United.
It is something Sir Alex Ferguson always had and felt Ten Hag had got.
But another week of chaos at the club suggests otherwise.
Three players who have shown a complete lack of respect for the manager.
Throw in inconsistent performances that suggest whatever the plan is at Carrington, it is not working. They are 11 points off the top four going into Thursday night’s away game at Wolves.
Yet again off-field issues have dominated the agenda leading up to a match.
Ten Hag was appointed with a mandate to eradicate the player power that had brought down his predecessors.
Unfortunately in the modern game, and at United in particular, it looks like a battle that cannot be won.
Ronaldo was a law unto himself before Ten Hag finally snapped and chucked him out the club.
Sancho basically called him a liar in a social-media posting after the boss left him out of the squad for Arsenal away due to his poor attitude in training. Now Rashford.
The player had already been warned this season after he partied to celebrate his birthday on the evening after United had been thumped in the derby last October.
But the message had clearly not got through. Either that or he thinks so little of the manager he does not care.
Ten Hag yesterday denied there was a lack of respect. He said: “It’s nothing to do with that.”
So is there just a discipline problem at United?
He said: “Nothing to do with that with me. But in football, you need discipline and that is on the pitch but also off the pitch.
“There is a line between, when every player, every pro knows this, what is required.
“We have to focus on winning games and that’s all that matters. Every top professional knows what is required.”
People might question why Sancho was exiled from the squad for what he did while Rashford has been welcomed straight back.
Ten Hag said: “We can sort out everything internally. Jadon chose to go public.”
Yet you could argue that if Ten Hag had not gone public as to why he left Sancho out, the player in turn would not have responded as he did.
ACE RASH’S TIPPLES TIMELINE
WEDNESDAY JAN 24
9.55am: Rashford arrives for Man United training.
4.21pm: Private jet leaves Manchester.
5.17pm: Plane lands at Belfast International airport. Rashford checks into the Fitzwilliam Hotel and visits the Dirty Onion and Lavery’s bar.
THURSDAY JAN 25
1.06pm: Picture posted online of Rashford at Larne FC.
2pm: Arrives at Sarah’s restaurant.
4.30pm: Leaves restaurant.
9.40pm: Rashford sends a driver to bring Sarah to Villa Italia restaurant.
FRIDAY JAN 26
00.30am: Rashford filmed going into Thompson’s Garage nightclub.
2am: Rashford leaves and the group go back to his hotel — although a source close to the player insists it was at 1.15am.
2.50am: The star passes out fully dressed.
5am: Rashford and his minders leave hotel.
7am: Private jet leaves Belfast airport.
8am: Plane touches down at Manchester airport.
SUNDAY JAN 28
Rashford is dropped from FA Cup game against Newport County. United boss Erik ten Hag says Rashford’s behaviour is an “internal matter” and he will “deal” with it.
MONDAY JAN 29
8.45am: Rashford arrives for training.
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Amid all this Sir Jim Ratcliffe, now in charge of footballing operations is watching on. There is no doubt Ten Hag is under pressure but you would not know it.
At yesterday’s press conference, he was all smiles and answered all the questions about Rashford.
He even suggested the player was starting to recover the form that saw him hit 30 goals last season.
The 26-year-old has scored two and provided two assists in his last three games.
Ten Hag said: “You see the last two Premier League games, and it was clear in the Wigan game, the progress between Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund, especially now the team behind in the back is getting stronger.
“That is growing and it gives a good spirit and mood in the team.
“We are quite confident and on our best days we can beat anyone.
“On our worst days, we go down to certain limits of what is not acceptable so we have to push our limits to high levels and on our worst days get our results in.
“Everyone in the squad is very convinced about this. They know players are coming back from long-term injuries and the team will be stronger. It helps the motivation and it helps the mood and the spirit of the team.
“Every game we have to see as a final and every game we have to get the best out of it and this team has so much experience, they know that, I’m quite positive now we have our players back.”
The circus moves on to Molineux.