Erik ten Hag has got Manchester United back on the right trajectory, but when things have gone wrong this season he’s handed out some brilliantly creative punishments.
Every great manager has to have that switch in their personality. Ten Hag comes across as a charming and likeable manager, but rest assured that he has the switch in him when he needs it.
From physical to psychological punishments, the United boss has a catalogue of creative disciplinary measures and we’ve compiled the top seven from this season.
Ten Hag set the tone from the off with his United players and he clearly left an impression after their pre-season tour. Jadon Sancho revealed: “Let’s say we do attack vs defence and the defence score, the attackers have to do five press-ups.
“He is assuring us that some things are not allowed – especially in transition play. We are all taking that in and we are taking it in well.”
Dealing with Alejandro Garnacho
The Argentine winger has been a star for United this season, but things could have unfolded very differently had Ten Hag not pulled him up for his attitude in pre-season.
Bruno Fernandes told BT Sport: “On the [pre-season] tour he didn’t have the best attitude that he should have had, and that’s why he didn’t get his chances until now.”
Garnacho was handed his first start by Ten Hag at the end of October against FC Sheriff in the Europa League. Holding him back has clearly had the desired impact as any attitude problems have promptly been stamped out.
Only 18 and Alejandro Garnacho is already coming up clutch 🌟
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 1, 2023
The post-Brentford run
United sank to the bottom of the Premier League after their humiliating 4-0 defeat against Brentford and Ten Hag formulated the perfect plan to get a reaction from his players.
“It’s quite clear,” he told beIN Sports after the match. “It’s rubbish. It’s poor and we need higher standards than that.”
The Dutch manager cancelled their planned day off and had them back in training to run 13.8km – the distance that Brentford players ran during their 4-0 triumph. Best of all is that Ten Hag himself even joined in.
There’s no doubt that this had a positive impact on the group as United then went on to beat Liverpool just nine days later. The crisis talks were swiftly put on the backburner as they then won seven of their next nine league matches. All thanks to a run.
Dropping Cristiano Ronaldo
Ten Hag was met by his biggest challenge early on as Ronaldo caused all sorts of problems for the manager in his early days at the club. The first cracks in their relationship appeared when Ronaldo left the stadium early during a pre-season friendly.
The Portuguese forward subsequently started their opening game against Brighton on the bench, but things only escalated from there.
Things hit boiling point when Ronaldo refused to come on as a late substitute against Tottenham and Ten Hag had just about had enough by this point.
Ronaldo was hit by a fine in the region of £1million and was left out of their matchday squad against Chelsea entirely. No player is above the team in Ten Hag’s eyes.
Cristiano Ronaldo went to the tunnel before the game ended against Tottenham 😬
— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 19, 2022
There was no turning back after Ronaldo conducted the Piers Morgan interview, in which he said he didn’t “respect” the United boss.
Ten Hag will have been given his say on the situation and the Portuguese superstar was subsequently released. The decision has been vindicated since as their record has improved significantly without Ronaldo.
Benching Marcus Rashford
“If you allow [players] to be undisciplined, if they don’t match the standards, values, rules we set together – that is the staff, players, and in the dressing room – then it will come back and blow in your face,” Ten Hag told reporters after he dropped Rashford to the bench against Wolves.
The United forward has scored more goals than any other player under Ten Hag, but the standards you set off the pitch are more important than anything else.
After Rashford had arrived late to training, Ten Hag took the decision to drop Rashford to the bench for their trip to Wolves. The punishment has worked like a charm as Rashford hasn’t stopped scoring since.
Relive the Liverpool humiliation
There’s no hiding from it, shipping seven goals to your arch-rivals is nothing short of abysmal. Keen on not letting anything like this happen again, Ten Hag came up with a brilliantly creative punishment.
As Liverpool laughed, cheered, and danced in the opposite changing room, Ten Hag made his players sit in silence and listen to the raving celebrations like a class of naughty children.
Then channelling his inner Sir Alex Ferguson, the Dutch manager reportedly ripped into his players and warned them that if anything like that happens again, they’ll will be sent straight to the Under-21s.
Time will tell if this punishment does the trick.