Ten Hag insists nationality is 'not an issue for me'

Man United boss Erik ten Hag insists nationality is ‘not an issue for me’ when he picks his teams after Eric Bailly accused the club of ‘favouring English players’ rather than selecting sides based on ability

  • Eric Bailly sparked controversy with his comments on United’s selection policy
  • Bailly’s jibe was interpreted as a swipe at fellow centre-back Harry Maguire
  • Erik ten Hag allowed the Ivory Coast defender to join Marseille on loan 

Erik ten Hag has insisted nationality does not come into his thinking when selecting his teams after Manchester United defender Eric Bailly sparked controversy by accusing the club of favouring English players.

Bailly took a swipe at the club, clearly with Harry Maguire among those he thinks were indulged, after joining Marseille on loan for the season and backed Ten Hag to solve the problem.

‘The club should avoid favouring English players and give everyone a chance,’ said the Ivory Coast centre-half, who joined United for £30million from Villarreal in 2016.

Eric Bailly has accused Man United of ‘favouring English players’ rather than choosing teams on merit

United boss Erik ten Hag insisted nationality is ‘not an issue for me’ in response to Bailly’s claim

‘Encourage competition in the dressing room, not just look out for some. I always had the feeling that the national player was prioritised. That doesn’t happen at Chelsea or other big Premier League clubs.

‘Some people take it for granted that they are going to start, and that weakens the team. Luckily, Ten Hag has a lot of character and I hope he can change that dynamic.’

Ten Hag, speaking at his press conference ahead of United’s opening Europa League game at home to Real Sociedad on Thursday, said he could not comment on Bailly’s claims as he was not the manager at the time.

But when asked if nationality of players was an issue for him, Ten Hag said: ‘Not for me.’ 

The Ivory Coast defender’s comments are a clear jibe at United centre-back Harry Maguire

Bailly fell down the pecking order under both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) and Ralf Rangnick (R)

Bailly was beset by injury problems during his six years at United and slipped out of favour once Maguire was signed in 2019, for £80million from Leicester. 

Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw were among other English players to feature regularly during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s three years in charge.

Across the last three seasons, however, Bailly has made only 20 Premier League appearances. He has two years remaining on his United contract but left for Marseille despite encouragement from ten Hag.

Bailly chose to move to Marseille on loan with an option to buy in the summer transfer window

‘I met Erik ten Hag in the dressing room at the end of last season,’ Bailly told the Times. ‘I was packing my things because my intention was to leave, but he told me he wanted me to stay because he was going to give minutes to everyone.

‘I agreed to do the summer tour with United, and he kept his word, but I don’t want to play every now and then. I want to do it every week and feel important. I want to get my confidence back.’

Ten Hag also confirmed Anthony Martial remains unavailable through injury and said Cristiano Ronaldo was ‘ready’ to start the Group E clash with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford. 

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