Manchester United are expecting a quiet month in the January transfer market, but there is an acceptance at Old Trafford that Jadon Sancho has to move on.
It’s approaching four months since Sancho last played after falling out with manager Erik ten Hag, during which the £73million winger has been training and eating alone at Carrington.
Finding a new club won’t be easy but Confidential understands that meetings took place in Germany on Thursday between Borussia Dortmund and representatives of their winger Donyell Malen that may have ramifications for Sancho.
Malen has been linked with a move to Old Trafford that could see Sancho return to his old club, two-and-a-half years after leaving Dortmund. Juventus and Barcelona could also offer him an escape route from United.
Malen is a client of Sports Entertainment Group, run by Ten Hag’s agent Kees Vos, which has been involved in a number of transfers involving United players. The 24-year-old would also be a direct replacement for Sancho on the right wing.
Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United nightmare could finally come to an end in January
The winger could return to Borussia Dortmund, where he enjoyed a successful four years
Dortmund’s Donyell Malen has been linked with a move to Old Trafford as Sancho exits
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It’s felt that the only way Sancho will stay at United is if Ten Hag is sacked as the Dutchman approaches a crucial run of games.
Even if Ten Hag survives, it remains to be seen what impact the arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe would have on his future – and SEG’s influence at United – in the long run.
Meanwhile, Donny van de Beek is likely to be on his way to Germany in January with Eintracht Frankfurt interested in a loan move for the Dutch midfielder who has made only two appearances off the bench for United this season.
United are more likely to sign players in the summer as they prioritise a striker and centre-back, although the possibility of a January deal cannot be ruled out.
Brentford’s Ivan Toney – who returns from his ban for betting in mid-January – Timo Werner of Leipzig and Stuttgart’s Serhou Guirassy are among the forwards being considered, while possible centre-back targets include Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite and Jean-Clair Todibo of Nice.
PR transfer for Rashford
Marcus Rashford has signed up with the same public relations firm that represents Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane.
While that might have been a cause for concern given how Sancho and Ronaldo fell out with Ten Hag, and Varane is currently out of favour with the Dutchman, Confidential understands United are comfortable with the situation.
Mason Mount belongs to the same PR stable which is said to have a positive working relationship with United, even over Sancho. The club doesn’t anticipate any problems with Rashford either.
United’s No 10 has had a difficult season in which he has scored just twice.
Away from the pitch, Rashford crashed his Rolls Royce outside the training ground in September and was publicly castigated by Ten Hag for celebrating his 26th birthday at popular nightspot China White in October, hours after United had been well beaten in the Manchester derby.
Marcus Rashford has changed PR firms as he tries to get a difficult campaign back on track
Van der Gaag’s ban-ter
Erik ten Hag’s assistant Mitchell van der Gaag was in good humour ahead of Tuesday’s make-or-break Champions League tie against Bayern Munich as he joked about last week’s media bans at the club.
Van der Gaag was setting up United’s final training session at Carrington on Monday, the first 15 minutes of which is open to cameramen and reporters.
‘Are they all allowed in today?’ the 52-year-old Dutchman shouted across to a member of the club’s communications team with a big grin.
United banned four media outlets from Ten Hag’s press conference before last week’s win over Chelsea, saying the club had not been given a chance to comment about stories claiming the manager was starting to lose the support of his players.
Ten Hag’s assistant Mitchell van der Gaag was in good spirits ahead of the Bayern clash
The ban included Sky Sports even though the broadcaster had just signed a new £6.7billion TV rights deal with the Premier League.
Scott McTominay took the opportunity to give his public backing to Ten Hag when he appeared in front of the cameras alongside his manager before the Bayern game.
‘It’s the players’ responsibility, first and foremost,’ said McTominay said. ‘We are at the stage where we have big characters in the dressing-room.
‘It is not just a case of like with some of the other managers where it has been a little bit toxic at times, the boys are firmly behind the manager.’
United’s room for improvement
Ten Hag and McTominay were speaking at a press conference in the main building at Carrington after UEFA told United they needed to switch from their usual venue next door at the Jimmy Murphy Centre.
While Ten Hag conducts his regular media briefings in the JMC – like Ralf Rangnick, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal before him – UEFA wanted more space to accommodate three separate rooms for broadcasters and a camera platform this season.
Scott McTominay and Erik ten Hag addressed the media in a different room on Monday
It meant United weren’t able to provide refreshments as usual, but visiting German reporters were given sandwiches and biscuits when Thomas Tuchel faced the media at Old Trafford six hours later – a big improvement on the situation facing English journalists in Munich in September who had pretzels and water to keep them going for eight hours between the Bayern and United press conferences at the Allianz Arena.
Wigan ticket boost for fans
United may be struggling on the pitch but their match-going fans were given something to cheer about when they drew Wigan away in the third round of the FA Cup.
Not only does the game at the DW Stadium on January 8 end a run of 12 straight domestic home ties, but United have received an allocation of just over 6,400 tickets – one of the biggest available in the competition.
United were actually in line to be given up to 8,000 tickets, but Confidential understands segregation from the home crowd is among the main reasons they have not got the maximum allocation.
The match gives United fans who have missed out in ballots for Premier League away games a better chance of securing a ticket.
Manchester United fans will receive a ticket allocation of 6,400 when they travel to Wigan
Applications are as high as they have ever been, with an average of 12,000 supporters applying for an average of 2,800 tickets so far this season.
The decision to house United in the East Stand of the DW Stadium has been met with a furious response from Wigan fans.
It has forced chairman Ben Goodburn to write to supporters of the League One club to effectively say he didn’t think they could sell out the match unless they move visiting fans from the usual North Stand, which has a capacity of over 5,000, to an area typically occupied by home supporters.
Toone falls foul of Fergie time
Sir Alex Ferguson may be a couple of weeks short of his 82nd birthday but the legendary United manager is still a stickler for time-keeping – as England midfielder Ella Toone discovered last week.
The United women’s team player watched the men in action against Chelsea from the directors’ box, and was sitting in front of Ferguson.
Ella Toone received a playful ticking off from Sir Alex Ferguson for her time-keeping
Toone was sat in front of the legendary former United manager during the Chelsea game
When Toone returned to her seat late for the second half, she received a playful telling-off from the Scot.
Fergie Time is now part of the football lexicon. Thomas Tuchel even referenced it on Monday night when discussing United’s famous comeback against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.
Evans and Heaton last from the past
United’s squad for the Champions League tie against Bayern is likely to include two players who were at Old Trafford when the club last won the European Cup more than 15 years ago.
Jonny Evans and Tom Heaton were in their first spells with United and included in the Champions League squad that ended up lifting the trophy in May 2008.
Evans featured in European games against Sporting Lisbon and Roma that season before joining Sunderland on loan.
Jonny Evans pictured with Steve McLaren during training ahead of the Bayern match
Now 35, the Northern Ireland defender is likely to be in Erik ten Tag’s 18-man squad against Bayern.
Heaton, 37, is also back at United having initially left to develop his career with Burnley and Aston Villa, winning two England caps.
Though he didn’t play for United in the 2007-08 season, he was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad and helped prepare Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez for the final against Chelsea in Moscow.
Utd provide winter warmth
Monday night marked the second week of United’s ‘warm hub’ initiative, where the club offer those facing difficult times free hot food and drink, as well as a place to chat.
The Red Cafe will be open to all every Monday in December and January as part of a commitment from United to have ‘a positive impact on the lives of those in need as temperatures fall and heating bills rise’.
And at next week’s Warm hub, the Red Cafe will host a Christmas themed event with the club providing festive feast, entertainment and gifts from those who attend.
ETP pays off for Kamason
Jaydan Kamason has become the first graduate from United’s Emerging Talent Programme (ETP) to sign professional terms with the club.
Kamason joined the programme at the age of 10 while playing for local team Stockport Vikings before the defender transitioned to the main academy group where he has spent the last six years.
The ETP identifies talented footballers and gives them the opportunity to attend a structured development programme at the club’s emerging talent centre, based at Carrington.
It also ensures that as many children from across the region as possible have the opportunity to engage with United, experience how the academy operates and benefit from further opportunities to continue playing the game.
To date, a total of 46 youngsters have attended the centre and gone on to register at United’s academy. A further 350 players have joined other professional teams, with United staff signposting them to Football League clubs across the north-west.
Academy coaches, led by Jen Mildenhall, engage with schools, grassroots football clubs and community groups across Manchester’s 10 boroughs.
In total, 12,000 children engage with the programme each year across 500 primary schools, 200 secondary schools and hundreds of junior teams. In addition, 800 coaches have benefitted from workshops, webinars and practical sessions in the last year alone.