Erik ten Hag says top players should not have to be reminded what is acceptable as the Manchester United boss looks to move on from Marcus Rashford’s reported Belfast escapades.
Having scored 30 goals for the Red Devils in 2022-23, things have gone awry this term and the forward’s paltry four-goal haul has been compounded by some off-field matters.
Ten Hag called Rashford’s decision to go to a party after October’s derby defeat to Manchester City “unacceptable” and stories emerged in recent days of more late-night exploits.
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The 26-year-old is reported to have gone out in Belfast last Thursday night until 3am and was unable to train the following day through illness, going on to miss Sunday’s FA Cup win at Newport.
United later said in a statement that “Marcus has taken responsibility for his actions” and the “internal disciplinary matter” is closed – something Ten Hag referred to ahead of Thursday’s trip to Wolves.
“So, he has taken responsibility and for the rest it’s an internal matter,” the Red Devils boss said. “Case closed.”
Ten Hag used the phrase “case closed” repeatedly, including when asked outright about Rashford’s reaction and whether the player had apologised for his actions.
But the Dutchman was more forthcoming on the obligations for elite players and the onus being on them to maintain high standards.
“First of all, the players at this level have to manage themselves,” Ten Hag said. “That is what you can demand from the player.
“A player has to know what is good and what is no good. When you want to play top football, it demands a certain way of life. Always.”
Pushed on whether he needs to reinforce that message, he interjected: “No. No, come on. We are talking about top football players.
“I don’t have to educate them anymore. When you are playing for Man United, they should know.”
Ten Hag underlined the need for accountability but says he takes potential matters going on behind the scenes into consideration when dealing with player behaviour.
“Of course, that is part of the job to support your players,” he said. “But also we have people in this club who are helping the players on that.
“But, as I said before, at the end of the day when you are a player at Man United you have to manage yourself and you have to take responsibility for your performance and your performance in a team.
“At Man United it’s winning football games. It’s all about that. It’s not so complicated.”
Rashford is not the first player to face internal disciplinary proceedings, with Jadon Sancho banished from September and Cristiano Ronaldo released by mutual agreement during Ten Hag’s first season.
Ten Hag brushed aside questions about whether the Rashford situation was a distraction or a test of his authority, but did speak about the difference to his handling of Sancho.
The 23-year-old claimed on social media in September he had been made a “scapegoat” after Ten Hag said he left him out of a matchday squad due to his training levels, leading to the exiled player leaving in the transfer window.
Asked to explain the difference in his approach with the pair, Ten Hag said: “We can sort out everything internal, but Jadon chose to go public.”
Sancho trained away from United’s first team before returning to Borussia Dortmund on loan, whereas Rashford is in contention for Thursday’s trip to Wolves.
The England international scored the winner as a substitute on the Old Trafford side’s last trip to Molineux, having been dropped to the bench for poor timekeeping.
Ten Hag disagrees that starting Rashford on Thursday may send out the wrong message and pointed to his absence at Newport, where he rejected the player’s offer to travel down on Sunday after two days off ill.
“I didn’t pick him on Sunday,” the United boss added. “We draw the line and from that point on we move on.”
Uruguay winger Facundo Pellistri has joined Granada on loan for the rest of the season after making 14 appearances this term. He has had two previous loan spells in Spain at Alaves.