Manchester United players turn on Erik ten Hag over treatment of Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire

Jadon Sancho of Manchester United is substituted on as Mason Mount of Manchester United comes off during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on August 14, 2023 in Manchester, England. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

It is understood a number of players have privately not agreed with Ten Hag’s strict approach though there are loyalists in squad.

Manchester United players are questioning Erik ten Hag’s strict methods in his handling of Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire with the Dutch manager heading into a crucial run of matches that could potentially decide his fate.

It is understood a number of players in Ten Hag’s squad privately have not agreed with his hardline stance on his own players.

The development came as United formally denied on Thursday that they were already lining up a replacement for Ten Hag. A club statement read: “The report claiming that we are exploring alternatives to Erik ten Hag as manager is categorically false.”

Recently, Sancho has not been with the first team after the manager accused him of training poorly, sparking a public rift. Maguire, the club captain until this season, also spent long spells out of the first team after being stripped of the armband, before winning his place back through injuries to other defenders.

Ten Hag has not been afraid of falling out with his players, with Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club acrimoniously last season yet United went on to finish in the top four and win the EFL Cup.

However, this season they have lost eight out of 16 games with fans turning on Ten Hag after recent defeats, and the club have now lost 15 of their last 50 matches under the current manager – three more than in the same number of fixtures in the final months of predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign. United have also scored 12 goals fewer and conceded twice more when compared with the same period.

Ten Hag does still have some loyalists within the squad, though, who remain convinced that his authoritarian approach is what’s needed to turn United around.

Ten Hag admitted it was “logical” for questions over his tenure after two humbling defeats at Old Trafford by Manchester City and Newcastle, within the space of four days. He now has potentially pivotal matches in the space of a week where he faces Fulham and Luton in the Premier League and FC Copenhagen to salvage their Champions League campaign.

After the 3-0 defeat by Newcastle, Ten Hag had insisted players in his first team must stick together to fight their way out of trouble and urged players to “cooperate”.

“It’s the only way we can do this. Shoulder by shoulder. Then we will come through this,” Ten Hag said. He added: “You have to be disciplined and do it with togetherness, everyone takes responsibility and be accountable. Co-operate – that is the key word.”

His future will be in sharp focus during the upcoming run of three matches in seven days ahead of the international break. Fulham represents a difficult challenge at the weekend before United will look to build on their win against Copenhagen at home when they needed a last-gasp Andre Onana penalty save to record their first European victory this season.

The fixture against Luton will be one Ten Hag is expected to win heading into the two weeks without a match, where clubs often assess their season and what will be needed in the second half of the campaign and in the January transfer market.

Ten Hag could point to having virtually his whole first-choice back four missing for recent matches. His fitness concerns at the back continued this week when Raphael Varane fell ill on Monday and was understood to be on antibiotics in his bid to return to action. Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw are also currently sidelined with Aaron Wan-Bissaka only just back from injury.

United’s manager has one full season left on his contract at Old Trafford and has talked about fighting his way out of trouble. He was backed in the summer window with Rasmus Hojlund, Mason Mount and Andre Onana but his signings have not been consistent.

The backdrop to the slump has been a potential takeover, which is now expected to see Sir Jim Ratcliffe take control of 25 per cent of the club, which has led to uncertainty over who will remain if he takes control of football operations.

Ratcliffe’s proposed deal worth up to £1.35 billion is still advancing but final negotiations are still being thrashed out, with no imminent announcement anticipated within the next week.

Sources maintain that a deal remains within sight, and the sale is not believed to be in jeopardy despite ongoing delays.