Erik ten Hag opens up on ‘very positive’ first meeting with Sir Jim Ratcliffe

By Sports Desk January 04, 2024

Erik ten Hag described his first meeting with Sir Jim Ratcliffe as “very positive” but admitted he still has much to learn about the billionaire’s plans for Manchester United.

Ratcliffe’s INEOS group will assume control of footballing operations once his purchase of a 25 per cent stake in the club has been ratified in the coming weeks, and he has been in Manchester this week for a series of meetings with club staff.

The meetings have been described as an opportunity for Ratcliffe, as well as senior INEOS officials Sir Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc, to get to know the club before they start work in earnest.

“It was very positive, I have to say,” Ten Hag said. “We had a long meeting, many hours we sit together and on many issues we are on the same page so it was very positive.

“I think from both sides it was a very constructive meeting and we look forward to working with them.”

But asked if he had been able to gain a clear idea of what might change under Ratcliffe, Ten Hag said: “We have to let it settle down. They’re just coming in, introducing themselves.

“They have good ideas. We have to see what we can integrate. In togetherness we will work on that but after one day you can’t tell that.

“They have given me a few (ideas), we have had our debates about strategies and I think we will come together.”

Ten Hag would not be drawn on reports that winger Jadon Sancho is close to returning to Borussia Dortmund on a loan until the end of the season.

He has not featured since August after a public falling out with Ten Hag and his refusal to apologise for a social media post in which the 23-year-old said he had been made a “scapegoat”.

A January exit has long been expected and Dortmund, the club Sancho left to join United in a £73million deal in 2021, have emerged as the leading contenders for his signature.

“I can’t say anything about that,” Ten Hag said. “We have to wait and see how things are going and when we have news, of course, we will tell you.”

Ten Hag did confirm that United have triggered contract extensions for Victor Lindleof, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Hannibal Mejbri, but they have entered discussions with Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial rather than take up options in their deals, which expire in the summer.

Martial is widely expected to leave the club in the summer, while it has been reported that United are hoping to persuade Varane to accept reduced terms if he is to sign a new deal.

“We are talking with Rapha Varane, with Anthony Martial, and we triggered the options on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Hannibal,” Ten Hag said.

Asked why contract options had not been triggered for Varane and Martial, Ten Hag said: “I think that is an internal discussion between the club and the players.”

Meanwhile, Ten Hag said he still does not know yet if goalkeeper Andre Onana will be available for next weekend’s Premier League match against Tottenham, saying only that he can feature in Monday’s FA Cup tie away to Wigan.

It is understood that the Cameroonian football association has agreed to allow the 27-year-old to join up late for their African Cup of Nations campaign, which starts on January 15, but Ten Hag stopped short of confirming he will play at Old Trafford next weekend.

“We’re talking with the Cameroon federation,” Ten Hag said. “It was an issue during the talks with Andre when he came in here. It’s constructive. We will see. I don’t know yet (for Spurs) but he will be here for the game against Wigan.”

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