It started with what seemed like a fairly innocuous inquiry.
After succumbing to a 3-1 defeat against Arsenal a reporter asked Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag why Jason Sancho had not even made it onto the substitutes bench.
“You have to reach a level every day at Manchester United and we can make choices in the front line,” he replied. “So for this game he was not selected.”
The Dutchman was vague enough in his language that it was hard to tell exactly what had occurred, but it was sufficient suggestive that something was off.
His remarks struck a nerve with Sancho who used a post on social media platform X to hit back at Ten Hag
“Please don’t believe everything you read!” He wrote on a post pinned to the top of his profile, “I will not allow people saying things that [are] completely untrue. I have conducted myself in training very well this week. I believe there are other reasons for this matter that I won’t go into, I have been a scapegoat for a long time which isn’t fair!
“All I want to do is play football with a smile on my face and contribute to my team. I respect all decisions that are made by the coaching staff, I play with fantastic players and [I’m] grateful to do so which I know every week is a challenge. I will continue to fight for this badge no matter what!”
Although the post has now been deleted reconciliation between Ten Hag and Sancho has not gone to plan.
According to reports the manager has demanded an apology the young Englishman is unwilling to provide.
The upshot has been the player’s exile from first-team activity or as Manchester United said in a statement: “Jadon Sancho will remain on a personal training program away from the first-team group, pending resolution of a squad discipline issue.”
Since then little has changed, the impasse at Old Trafford with the $90 million signing from Borussia Dortmund has remained.
Matters were made worse this week by reports in local paper the Manchester Evening News suggesting the Sancho dispute was starting to affect other players.
“Some players believe Ten Hag has favorites in the squad who he is unprepared to single out for criticism, while they feel others are routinely rounded on by the United manager,” the MEN claimed.
The report, by chief Manchester United writer Samuel Luckhurst, went on to suggest that “although Ten Hag has avoided publicly naming players who have erred, he has often highlighted the players’ failure to ‘follow the rules’ after defeats.”
Whether this adds credence to Sancho’s suggestion he was being scapegoated remains to be seen. What is an unavoidable truth is that, since moving to the Red Devils in 2021, the vast potential the young winger possesses has never got close to being realized.
It’s a shocking waste of talent for a player who lit up the Bundesliga during his time there, averaging a goal or assist every 90 minutes during 104 appearances for Borussia Dortmund.
He scored hat-tricks, won trophies and was the heartbeat of one of Europe’s most exciting outfits.
Sancho achieved all of that whilst also acting as a trailblazer for English talent which has historically rarely moved abroad let alone been as successful as the Londoner.
Yet with depressing predictability, all of those accolades have been dismissed in favor of reports suggesting Sancho has a tendency for ‘lateness.’
“Jadon Sancho’s time-keeping exasperates his bosses, training levels are not up to scratch for club or country, England give him a wide berth over his sulking and Chelsea snubbed move” roared the Daily Mail headline in the aftermath of the dispute with Ten Hag
“Sancho has struggled to reproduce his Bundesliga form in the more demanding surroundings of the Premier League where even players with his talent cannot get away with cutting corners if they want a regular place in the team” the paper snidely added.
Is it really the case that Sancho has been found out when making a step up or is it far more likely his performances have been affected by the same malady that blights so many talents who’ve shown up at Old Trafford only to get worse.
The chances are he’s not the exception.
In the past 12 months alone, Rafael Varane and Casemiro, experienced players with multiple Champions League winning medals, have declined to the point where they need replacing.
The tales of woe over a longer period are even more overwhelming with the dramatic regressions of Romelu Lukaku, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba the most expensive examples of an overwhelming trend.
Thankfully not everyone has been so quick to condemn Sancho, TalkSport pundit Jamie O’Hara being one to offer a different opinion.
“I think it’s disgusting what they’re doing to him,” he said, “I know he’s come out and made a statement, whether that was the right thing to do or not […] but was it right of Ten Hag to dig him out when he wasn’t even involved with the group?
“We all know Jadon Sancho needs to be better on the football pitch. And how he does that is getting him back playing football, getting him training and enjoying his football.
“What they’re doing to him right now is never going to get Jadon Sancho back to his best. All you’re going to do is mentally damage the football player and make him feel worse than he already does.”