Bruno Fernandes has revealed that one of the biggest things Erik ten Hag has brought to Manchester United is a new culture of discipline, which has taught players that they must abide by his rules or they won’t be involved.
Long since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s iron fist, United have been accused of lacking the right culture to be successful in recent years, contributing to poor results on the pitch. But Ten Hag’s approach has had a transformative effect on the squad in just a few months.
“When he first arrived, we went on tour and the training sessions that we had here after that…he demands. He demands from people: you do it or you won’t play,” Fernandes explained in the latest episode of Rio Ferdinand’s Between the Lines.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford haven’t been too big to be collared for infractions this season. And while Ronaldo has since left after falling out with the boss, Rashford is now in the form of his life and Sancho is rapidly improving too.
“Everyone asked in the beginning, ‘If a big player doesn’t do what he wants, will he pull them apart or not?’ [But] he did it many times – he did it with Cristiano, Jadon and Marcus also,” Fernandes added, going on to use the example of Rashford being dropped for a game after being late one day.
“Marcus was probably in the best form against Wolves – he did something wrong and the manager just put him out. Everyone was like, ‘Wow!’” Fernandes continued.
“In the first moment for us [as players], [Marcus] is our main man and we need him. But I was sitting with David [de Gea] and said to him, ‘This has to be like this. Because if not, the younger ones will think if he does nothing to him [for breaking rules], next time, he will do nothing to me too’.
“He demanded from Rashy to be consistent in everything, not only your game or goals and performance, but off the pitch also. Obviously, Marcus was hungry because he wanted to play, [but] he accepted, went to the game, comes on, scores and we win.
“At the end of the story, him and the coach together, smiling and laughing. It’s the way it has to be. I’m a parent [and] sometimes you have to make some rules that are hard. If not, they will go over you and in a short period of time they will own the house.”
Ten Hag has also earned the respect of his players in other ways too. When he cancelled a scheduled day off in the wake of a humiliating defeat to Brentford in August, the Dutchman ordered his players to run the distance they had been collectively outrun in the game – nearly 14km. But he accompanied the squad on that run, which Fernandes later revealed sent a message to the players.
“He wants to make us understand we are together on this in a good way, in a bad way, in the good moments and in the bad moments. All of a sudden, you look backwards and you see your manager running with you,” the United star explained.