Jadon Sancho’s future at Manchester United looks bleak after Erik ten Hag admitted he does not know whether the winger will play for the club again.
The 23-year-old is training away from the first team as a disciplinary measure after claiming on social media that he had been made a “scapegoat” following his omission from the squad for the defeat at Arsenal before the international break.
Ten Hag hinted that it was not just this misstep that was taken into consideration when deciding the punishment, though repeatedly declined the opportunity to speak about Sancho when asked at his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s visit of Brighton.
The episode bears similarity to the way Cristiano Ronaldo was jettisoned out of the club after his explosive interview with Piers Morgan last year and Ten Hag said he did not know how long Sancho’s disciplinary procedure would last or whether he will represent United again.
Asked directly whether he would pull on the United shirt again, Ten Hag said: “I don’t know. I am sitting here. Tomorrow we have a big game, we are going into a new block of games, many games in a condensed programme. I focus on that.”
On how long the disciplinary process might last, the Dutchman replied: “I don’t know but, as I say, I don’t think about that. I think about tomorrow. I think about the way the team has to progress. I have a lot to consider to make the right decisions.
“He is not available, so in this moment, he is not important, because he can’t contribute.”
Ten Hag, who claimed he inherited a club with “no good culture” when he took over, was at pains to stress that he was not focused on Sancho and the team is the most important thing.
“It’s in favour of the team. That is what my decision is based on,” he said.
“That is not about me, and to be strict. No. This is in favour of the team. I don’t think about that (Sancho’s tweet) and I don’t talk about that, because I have to win a game. It is all about that.
“The players who are there and available deserve me. I have to guide them, I have to prepare them, it is about that. I only focus on the players who are available.
“It is also not about me, it is about the team and the club. I put my energy into giving the best performance tomorrow against Brighton.
“As a club, as a team we have to deal with that. But once again it is no importance to the coming games, I have to put my energy so that the team play their best tomorrow, in a week, the coming period. I have to focus on that.”
Sancho’s misdemeanour is the latest in a long line of off-field issues that Ten Hag has had to deal with since his appointment last summer and he said part of his brief was to instil better discipline at the club.
Ten Hag said: “Strict lines is what the club asked me because there was no good culture before I entered last season, so to set good standards, that is what I did and it is my job to control the standards.
“Of course, it is never someone only makes one mistake, it is a whole process before you come to a certain outcome about strict lines.
“If staff or players or whoever, there is a structure to cross lines so you have to be strong.”