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Lies, leaks & insults: Why Ten Hag must realise nothing has changed inside Man Utd

COMMENT: Victory at Turf Moor should ease things. At least for now. But these past few days have been a lesson for Erik ten Hag. That "no good culture" he raised last week, well, it's been shown to still be alive and kicking at Manchester United...

They smelled blood. They really did. And came at him from all sides. As we say, it was a lesson for Ten Hag. He knows for this lot, well, at least for certain members of this lot, you wouldn't want to be stuck in a trench with 'em.

All it took was a couple of defeats and they saw their opening. His tactics were run down. His handling of Jadon Sancho was pulled apart. Even his agent, Kees Vos, was dragged into it all. They saw their chance. The unhappy outcast. The disgruntled agent. And they pounced.

Sancho, of course, could be an innocent party in all this. But whoever is doing the leaking in his support does the winger no favours. Ten Hag likes a tight group. A loyal group. He spoke about leakers last season. The zero tolerance policy. But it all raised it's ugly head last week. His banishing of Sancho. His treatment of David de Gea. His playing favourites with certain members. Negative. Divisive. Leaks from club and dressing room sources designed to disrupt and drag down the manager and his plans. It was Van Gaal, Mourinho and Ole all over again. Are we now seeing the realManchester United? Was last season the exception that basically proves the rule...?

In response, Ten Hag called for unity. It was portrayed as the manager defending his work. His dressing room. And affirming that everyone was on the same page. But there was also a message in his reaction to those behind-the-scenes. The ones who are feeding the press. Ten Hag won't tolerate it. You're with him or against him. That demand from Sancho to apologise says it all. Just as he jettisoned Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba before him. He's not one to play nice.

"It's my second year," stated the Dutchman before Saturday's win at Burnley. "I know it's not always going up, you will have your gaps and you get stronger from it as long as you stay together.

"That's what we're doing. In the dressing room, staff, all the staff, coaches, medical, everyone is united and at United you fight."

The response was clear: there's only one way through this - by being united. 'Staying together'. There is no other way forward.

And asked directly about those dressing room leaks, Ten Hag added: "I don't know if it's a leak but I know opinion, I know my players. Everyone can make suggestions, we are okay with it."

So there'll be more changes. There has to be. You can't have the manager being pulled apart, as Ten Hag was, a month into the new season. As we've stated in this column, the results, the individual performances, they haven't been good. But there are reasons for those defeats. Circumstances. And it really shouldn't have resulted in what we witnessed last week.

Ten Hag still has a problem. It's a problem that has been there inside the club, the dressing room, for a decade. Three defeats in five games at Liverpool and no-one is going to the press to run Jurgen Klopp out of the club. To push claims of favouritism to drive wedges between cliques of players. But you get that from United. And it didn't take much.

Ben Thornley, the club's in-house pundit, described the impact of Ten Hag as "magnificent" in conversation with last season. Winning the League Cup. Reaching the final of the FA Cup. Qualifying for the Champions League. We pushed Ben about the atmosphere inside the club. Amongst the staff. The players. And he said Ten Hag had transformed the place. It was a far happier environment than it had been in the recent past.

But it appears it was all an illusion. Winning does that. It denies room. Oxygen. To those sidelined and unwilling to put the team first. But they're still around. And as we saw last week, it really didn't take much for them to strike.

Ten Hag can't dismiss this. And he shouldn't have to live with it. As we say, certain claims were pedaled to undermine the manager - and divide his squad. And as a team, Ten Hag knows, they're not going to get close to challenging Manchester City when at the first sign of trouble you have players and staff so eager to anonymously sabotage.

That "no good culture" he raised last week is still alive and kicking at Manchester United...

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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