Manchester United’s Off-Pitch Issues
Manchester United have had a poor few months behind the scenes, some of it couldn’t be avoided, but there are certain things that are a result of their own making. Erik ten Hag now faces a difficult selection decision on the right wing, due to a mixture of poor management and legal issues.
In theory, Manchester United should have an embarrassment of riches in that position, with Mason Greenwood, Antony and Jadon Sancho all employed by the football club.
Player-specific Issues and Controversies
Greenwood has been shipped out on loan due to the public nature of his private life, that has left his position in the squad untenable.
Antony is now facing similar allegations and he has been given a leave of absence by the club to address these. United were criticised in their handling of the former, therefore it is expected they will tread more carefully with their Brazilian winger.
Jadon Sancho is available for selection, but he looks set to leave Manchester United sooner rather than later. Ten Hag criticised the winger’s training performance following the Arsenal match and there have been numerous stories leaked to make the England international look bad. A reconciliation isn’t impossible, but it looks very difficult for Sancho to ever become trusted by the United head coach.
Potential Replacements on the Pitch
Antony had been a mainstay of the starting eleven under Ten Hag. The pair first worked together at Ajax and clearly have a very good relationship on the pitch. Now United must find a player to fill in and perform well on that side of the pitch. It is unknown how long Antony will be out for, but if the Greenwood situation is anything to go by, it could be a lengthy period. Ten Hag must approach it with that in mind.
Facundo Pellistri has been talked up online. The winger is highly rated and has been talked up in Uruguay for the last few years. Since 2022, he has accrued 13 caps for his national team and he played well at the World Cup. Those experiences have suggested that he is now ready for a bigger role in the Manchester United squad. He’s been used a handful of times by United in the last year, but most of those appearances have come as a substitute. In fact, he has only started once under Ten Hag. It would be a huge statement of faith for the Dutchman to opt to play Pellistri regularly.
The other options are to shift Marcus Rashford over to the right wing, in order to start Alejandro Garnacho more regularly. Out of the young attackers, Ten Hag does seem to trust Garnacho more. The Argentine has started 12 times since the Dutchman took charge. It might be unpopular to move Rashford to the right, but Ten Hag may prefer that choice as he can use a young player that he clearly trusts. Other options would be Bruno Fernandes or Mason Mount. Either could do well in the role, but neither are naturals. Out of the two, Mount would be preferred, as he has looked uncomfortable in the central role and the balance of the midfield hasn’t looked right. Fernandes is the club captain and he is integral in his current position, but like Rashford, Ten Hag may choose to move him.
If the Antony situation drags on, this could be the most difficult selection decision since Ten Hag took over. It is likely that he will experiment on the right to see what offers the best balance to the team. However, he can’t afford to labour on this for too long, as his team have important matches in the next month.