United’s stars have been given a three-line whip by the new manager as he bids to raise standards and foster unity after the club’s worst Premier League campaign exposed divisions and indiscipline in the camp.
Ten Hag is known for his no-nonsense approach and attention to detail – on and off the pitch – and the arch-disciplinarian has introduced a series of ground rules that he expects his players to obey. These include:
⬤ Fines or punishments for being late to team meetings, meals and training
⬤ A ban on mobile phones at meal times, which must be taken together
⬤ No consumption of alcohol during match weeks
⬤ Regular BMI checks to ensure players are in shape
⬤ Players being encouraged to eat club prepared meals rather than use personal chefs
⬤ United’s squad have also been told to raise any complaints they have directly with Ten Hag or his backroom staff as the manager bids to clamp down on the leak of dressing room information and encourage a culture of honesty and togetherness.
Fernandes was one of the players who tried repeatedly to pull a splintered dressing-room together last season and the United midfielder has offered a ringing endorsement of Ten Hag’s hardline stance as the club attempt to bounce back next season.
“I think we missed that (discipline) for a while and I think the way I see discipline is important,” Fernandes said. “For me, discipline is not only the way you play on the pitch, the position that you have, what you have to do, it’s also off the pitch.
“Don’t be late for the meetings, don’t be late for the meals. I think that’s really important because if everyone is on time and someone comes late, he should be punished.
“I think it’s really good that he (Ten Hag) is doing that and, for me, amazing because I like to be on time so I won’t have problems with that.”
Just as Ten Hag has imposed a number of direct guidelines off the field, Fernandes says the Dutchman’s crystal clear instructions on the training pitch is also making it much easier to implement a new style of play, with an onus on pressing, playing out from the back and intelligent build-up play.
Signs of the progress being made under Ten Hag were perhaps best illustrated in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace in Melbourne on Tuesday when United scored three superb team goals.
“It’s been easy because he’s really clear with what he wants and what he demands from the players,” Fernandes said. “So we just have to do it and try to do the best we can because his ideas are clear and the rules are clear. So we just have to follow that.
“Obviously he demands a lot and that’s good because we concentrate a lot now because we know that if you don’t do what he wants, you’re out of the team, you don’t play, so I think that’s a good thing.”
Whether Cristiano Ronaldo will be able to press effectively within Ten Hag’s system remains to be seen. The Portugal forward has missed United’s tour for personal reasons and wants to quit the club, with Fernandes admitting he does not know if his compatriot will stay at Old Trafford.
Asked how important it is to keep hold of Ronaldo, Fernandes said: “I don’t know. Obviously Cristiano was our top scorer last season, he added goals to us, but obviously it’s not on me, it’s the club that has to make the choices and Cristiano makes his own choice.
“I don’t know what’s going on in his head, if he wants to leave. I didn’t ask him that, the only thing I asked Cristiano when he didn’t turn up was if everything was okay with the family. He told me what was going on, that’s it and nothing more.”