Manchester United dressing room mood changed for the better on transfer deadline day

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A year ago, there were unhappy players in every corner of the Manchester United dressing room. That is not the case on this deadline day.

Harmony was fully restored in the Manchester United dressing room when Cristiano Ronaldo hosted Piers Morgan for his therapeutic journey in early November.

Ronaldo was unrewarded and his interview paid off for United, arguably a better team this season without one of their greatest players before and after filing for divorce on Talk TV.

No football fan cares what Ronaldo is doing in an oppressive country where 81 people were beheaded in a single day less than a year ago. One of the sport’s great competitive careers is over.

Several sources close to United’s players have noted how much happier the team is now that the eggshells they were walking on are gone. Even non-regular players appreciate Erik ten Hag’s directness and the clarity he provides.

Exactly one year ago, the dressing room was teeming with disgruntled characters. Dean Henderson and Jesse Lingard were denied loans amid firm interest from Watford and Newcastle and the fallout spilled over into February.

Lingard recalled the episode recently in a chat with a holistic podcaster, dismayed by the way United misled fans on their subsequent days off, scheduled for a break in Dubai, ostensibly to soften the blow of no loan.

With an interim manager in place, Lingard didn’t think twice about contesting Ralf Rangnick’s version of events, naturally, on social media. Anthony Martial had already done so the previous month, when Rangnick claimed he asked not to be included in the squad against Aston Villa.

Martial at least got a loan deal for Sevilla, but United kept Lingard. Ironically, Martial is considered so vital by Erik ten Hag that he said last week that United play their “best football” with him up front. That’s true, but you can count on one hand the number of times Martial has been at his best over the past two years.

As much as United fans absorbed Rangnick’s frankness, it went down like a lead balloon in the dressing room and the atmosphere grew more sulphurous as the season went on. Henderson voiced his grievances in a preseason interview, and several other players privately complained.

If we consider the number of players hurt by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s indecisive and lenient management, the count is four after the goalkeeping department. David de Gea was so offended by the rotation with Henderson during the 2020–21 season that a senior United player described it as a “big problem”.

Henderson chafed at Solskjaer reneging on his promise to install him at number 1, Tom Heaton returned under the assumption that he would be number 2 and Sergio Romero was inexplicably denied a transfer in the short summer window of 2020.

Others were sold as puppies or, in Lingard’s case, not sold when they should have been. Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams felt underused and Donny van de Beek was ripped off. Diogo Dalot was suspicious, Eric Bailly accused Solskjaer of favouritism, and Anthony Elanga was neither loaned out nor integrated into the first team.

Martial and Marcus Rashford disapproved of the management of his injuries and Ronaldo saaaaaaaanctioned Machiavellian briefings that resulted in Solskjaer being defenestrated.

United are finalizing the list of players they intend to sell in the summer. Some have a feeling their name is on it or they already know. Unlike last year, nobody is looking forward to leaving Carrington when they could be climbing the Wembley steps next month or in May.

From a soft touch to a hard taskmaster; Ronaldo should have known better than to underestimate Ten Hag.

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