Ten Hag calms talk of divided squad as Wilcox appointed technical director

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Alejandro Garnacho;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Alejandro Garnacho</a> of <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Manchester United;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Manchester United</a> in training this week.</span><span>Photograph: Ash Donelon/Manchester United/Getty Images</span>

Erik ten Hag has denied claims of ­factions within his Manchester United squad, while attempting to put a line under a string of recent controversies.

On a day when Jason Wilcox was confirmed as United’s technical director, joining from Southampton, Ten Hag sought to further cool waters after Alejandro Garnacho apologised for the faux-pas of liking a social media post critical of his manager.

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“Alejandro is a young player, has to learn a lot,” he said. “He apologised for it and after that we move on.” When asked if his squad was divided and fractured, Ten Hag told a press conference previewing Sundaytomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final with Coventry: “I wouldn’t point to that.” He next mounted a defence of Casemiro, criticised heavily for his performance during last week’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.

“I think we needed the six when I arrived here and last season Casemiro was fantastic,” said Ten Hag of a player signed late in last year’s summer transfer window from Real Madrid on hefty wages after several weeks pursuing the Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong at Barcelona.

“I don’t think he ever scored so many goals as well but as a six, a holding midfielder, as a strategist, he was so important for the team. This season he struggled with a bad injury he never had in his career, but he is such a winner. See his career, always in his career he has won, everywhere he was there will be success,” said Ten Hag of the five-time Champions League winner.

“I trust he will give us success and I know he will need games and he will be better and I’m very confident about him.”

The form of Jadon Sancho over both legs of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League tie with Atlético Madrid might have also been uncomfortable for Ten Hag. Sancho has underperformed for United, and also criticised the club on social media, with reports of him training away from the main squad before his loan move back to the club United paid £73m in 2021 for the winger.

“We know Jadon Sancho is a fantastic football player, so that is not a surprise for us, that is not the issue,” Ten Hag said. “Of course, I follow international football and follow the players on loan at other clubs. It was a fantastic game, Dortmund against Atlético Madrid, great performance from Dortmund and for Jadon it’s good news. He made his contribution to the result for Dortmund.”

Before Wembley, United await news of the fitness of Scott McTominay and Antony, with Ten Hag expecting both to play a part against the club managed by United’s 1990 FA Cup saviour, Mark Robins.

Wilcox has left his post as Southampton’s director of football and joined United after compensation was settled. The former Blackburn player, like United’s incoming chief executive Omar Berrada, has a background at Manchester City. Wilcox worked there as academy director.