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Man Utd insiders on why Ten Hag forgave Rashford but not Sancho

Even after Marcus Rashford had scored a superb opener in Manchester United’s humdinger of a win at Wolves, there were plenty still questioning the double standards of boss Erik ten Hag.

A large number of supporters were aghast as Rashford was named among the starters at Molineux on Thursday night, given the encounter came three days after he was called into a disciplinary meeting to explain why he was out in a Belfast nightclub a few hours before he was supposed to be training.

Why had he been instantly forgiven when Jadon Sancho had been forced to train with the academy players, often left with the keys to lock up afterwards, having simply dared to respond to Ten Hag’s accusations he had not been applying himself?

Sancho never got another look-in after falling out with his manager and is now on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

United accepted a cut-price deal to get him out of the door as soon as the January transfer window opened.

Yet Rashford, reprimanded for the second time this season for being spotted in nightclubs at inappropriate times, walks straight back into the starting XI and the club keep reiterating it is “case closed”.

How is it different? Couldn’t Sancho have been given a second chance, too? How do the pair view each other? As Ten Hag has been keen to point out, the two cases are very different indeed.

Stubborn Sancho

After Ten Hag criticised Sancho’s work in training before dropping him for September’s trip to Arsenal, the forward effectively called his manager a liar in public. However, the England international was still offered an olive branch.

All it was going to take, Ten Hag insisted, was an apology, in front of the whole squad. Then the exiled Sancho could be brought back in from the cold.

Sources close to the player insisted all along that it was not going to happen. Sancho did not feel he had anything to apologise for and stood his ground, believing he was a “scapegoat” for United’s wider issues.

The longer it went with no apology forthcoming, it was clear the relationship was untenable. Ten Hag was not for moving, and neither was the player.

We are not sure for certain whether Rashford has actually uttered the word “sorry” to Ten Hag, but he has admitted responsibility for his actions in Belfast, leading to the club drawing a line under it all.

United keeping it ‘in-house’

Due to the club’s global appeal, keeping grievances in-house is very, very important to the powers that be.

“We can sort out everything internally. Jadon chose to go public,” said Ten Hag. “I don’t have to educate them any more. When you are playing for Man Utd, they should know.”

Any attempt to damage the reputation of the club does not sit well. Earlier this season, several journalists were banned from attending a press conference after reporting that there was unrest in the dressing room.

United felt, having supported Sancho through his mental health issues last season and granting him an extended leave of absence, they had built a stronger bond with a player they had such high hopes for. To then accuse the manager of fabrication on social media broke that trust.

Rashford is more vocal than most footballers on social media, often responding to speculation linking him with moves away from the club or criticism from pundits. What he has never done is call the club out, or suggest his feelings for his boyhood team have changed one bit.

No bad blood

As Sancho and Ten Hag’s relationship reached a stalemate, some senior players in the squad did all they could to persuade Sancho to knock on his manager’s door. The feeling among teammates was one of “bewilderment”, given how reconcilable they felt the whole thing was.

Rashford was one of those keen for a truce. As a result, insiders say there is no animosity between him and Sancho.

“Rashford knows how different things would have been if Jadon apologised,” a source close to the players said. “There is a relationship to repair between Erik and Marcus, not Jadon.”

What Sancho was not happy with was that other players were getting an easier ride, with out-of-form forwards getting opportunities in the first team week after week, while he was not even allowed to train with the first team.

It took Antony 24 appearances this season to register a goal or an assist, while Anthony Martial has featured on 19 occasions, despite the Frenchman seemingly cruising towards a summer exit from the club.

Rashford is hardly in the form of his life – his strike at Wolves was just his fifth in all competitions – but last season’s exploits, where he plundered 30 goals, gives him more leeway in the eyes of teammates vying for a starting berth.

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