The Manchester Evening News was banned from attending Manchester United manager ten Hag’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday due to publishing news of discord in the Manchester United dressing room. After this incident occurred, Samuel Luckhurst, editor-in-chief of the Manchester Evening News, wrote an article to express his views.
Last season when Manchester United played Southampton, I had a heated discussion with a Manchester United player and he asked me: “Do you support us?” I told him: “Journalism is a fair industry.”
After the exchange, the Manchester United player learned more about the team and the role of team reporters. I stressed to him: “I will criticize and praise any player under the manager.” We are accused of being negative, but ironically it is the players, their relatives, managers, fans and press officers who focus more on the negative news.
The father of a Manchester United player contacted me because he was unhappy with the news we published. Did he read the article about his son? Did you see what we wrote about his son’s progress and community work? No, he did not.
About a month before Ten Hag took over and entered the room where United held press conferences, the reporter had lunch with a senior member of the club’s hierarchy. The club is entering a transition period with new chief executive Richard Arnold and long-serving press officer Karen Shotbolt leaving at the end of the 2021-22 season. Amidst the discussion of various trivial matters, the conversation turned to the Manchester United dressing room.
I flagged some of the abusive emails I continued to receive from a relative of a player as an example of a “toxic culture” within the team and the need for real change. It is unknown whether the staff member passed on the information he provided. But, as Mourinho once said, the problem remains.
One of Manchester United’s summer signings belongs to the same PR firm as those disgruntled players past and present. Manchester United didn’t know that until you actually let them know.
It feels like United’s latest goal in resetting their culture is to tone down negative press, and I have to wish them the best of luck. Since being relegated, Manchester United has never reached double-digit losses in a season so quickly. People watching the game are not stupid. They have regularly booed teams at Old Trafford this season. United have a negative goal difference in the Premier League and Champions League and are out of the competition where they have won the title for the last six-and-a-half years. This is not a song of praise!
By banning journalists from press conferences, United are essentially showing contempt for the fans because we are asking questions on their behalf.
With any manager appointed by Manchester United in the post-Ferguson era, there will always be instances when players have been loose-lipped during their tenure, and reporters have made news on that basis. That’s what we ask, provide insights and information.