MAN UNITED CONFIDENTIAL: Ten Hag's perfect tributes for Bobby Charlton

MAN UNITED CONFIDENTIAL: Ten Hag’s tributes to Sir Bobby are a far cry from Mourinho’s Munich memorial display… while new book claims Glazers considered giving fans who sang loudly free tickets

  • Erik ten Hag spoke with deep understanding and respect for Sir Bobby Charlton 
  • The Glazers pondered giving some Stretford End and East Stand fans free entry
  • Follow Mail Sport’s new Man United WhatsApp channel for all the breaking news 

Jose Mourinho shocked Manchester United’s top brass at the Munich memorial in February 2018 when he turned up at Old Trafford wearing a hoodie and trainers.

Everyone else representing the club was suited and booted for the 60th anniversary of the tragedy which was marked by an emotional letter written by Munich survivor Sir Bobby Charlton about the devastating impact it had on everybody connected with United.

It’s fair to say that Erik ten Hag has conducted himself considerably better in the days since Sir Bobby passed away at the age of 86.

Ten Hag spoke with a deep understanding of United and respect for Charlton before and after the game at Sheffield United on Saturday, and again at Carrington on Monday ahead of the Champions League tie against FC Copenhagen when he insisted on holding a minute’s silence before his press conference.

The United manager further endeared himself to the media during an open training session afterwards by ordering his players to do an extra drill right in front of the cameras after realising one of his coaching staff had taken them partially out of sight for most of the 15-minute window by mistake. As a result, it was extended to half an hour.

Erik ten Hag has conducted himself admirably since Sir Bobby Charlton’s passing on Saturday

Jose Mourinho shocked club chiefs by wearing a hoodie and trainers at the Munich memorial

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Cameramen – particularly those lugging heavy TV equipment – were especially grateful that they were allowed to access the session on the grass at the side of the pitch.

When United played Galatasaray earlier this month, media had to trudge through mud and puddles around the perimeter of Carrington to a far-flung corner of the complex before setting up. Confidential understands that UEFA stepped in (to the discussion, not the puddles) and the situation was quickly rectified.

Two knights, one lifelong friendship

One of Sir Bobby Charlton’s most touching friendships in football was with fellow north-east great Sir Bobby Robson.

The pair were both included in England’s squad for the 1958 World Cup when Robson, five years the senior, took 20-year-old Charlton under his wing for what was the United player’s first big overseas trip since the Munich air disaster.

In particular, Robson made sure he sat next to the nervous Charlton on the flight to Sweden, a reassuring presence as the plane hit light turbulence coming into land, with the United player muttering ‘just get us down’.

Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Bobby Robson remained great friends after their playing careers

Charlton never forgot his team-mate’s thoughtfulness and they remained close over the next few decades, both becoming knights of the realm for their achievements.

The two Sir Bobbys met before Robson’s death in 2009 for a piece with Mail Sport in which Charlton showed an impressive lack of ego discussing the possibility that his England goalscoring record would one day be broken.

The legendary World Cup winner, who passed away at the age of 86 on Saturday, thought at the time that Michael Owen would eclipse his 49 international goals – ultimately it turned out to be Wayne Rooney who first got there.

Hojlund of hope and glory

Owen was, of course, best-known for his association with Liverpool but he also spent three successful years at Old Trafford, scoring a famous late winner against Manchester City and winning a Premier League title in 2011.

As United prepare to face FC Copenhagen at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, the former England striker has identified the young Dane, Rasmus Hojlund, as the player who can determine whether Erik ten Hag’s rebuild works or not.

‘There will always be people who say if you save loads of goals, you win the league. It’s rubbish,’ says Owen. ‘The centre-forward can be the difference between mediocrity and a great team. You can mould defenders but goal scorers, it is pure instinct. It is knowing your job and being able to do it under the highest of pressure.’

Michael Owen says Rasmus Hojlund can determine whether Erik ten Hag’s rebuild works

Owen believes United overpaid in getting £72million Hojlund to England, but accepts why they needed to take a gamble on the rookie. ‘The minute any centre-forward shows any progress or potential, there’s going to be such an inflated number on them,’ he told

‘The massive numbers are spent just in case that person is going to be able to carry them for the next 10 years. He does appear someone who could be fantastic in the future, but normally you associate that kind of money with somebody who is going to guarantee you 30 goals like Robin van Persie. If somebody’s young and looks like they could be good, there’s a premium to pay.’

Glazers thinking out loud

The Glazer family have long been the target for vociferous protests from Manchester United fans, but Confidential has learned that there was a time when the unpopular owners actively sought to harness the noise at Old Trafford for their own ends.

Incredibly, the Glazers considered allowing the club’s most ardent supporters to attend home matches free of charge – so long as they played their part in adding to the atmosphere at the Theatre of Dreams.

The World’s Biggest Cash Machine: Manchester United, The Glazers, and the Struggle for Football’s Soul, a book released this week detailing the Glazers’ time in charge at United, delves into the tactics devised by the board to enhance profits at the club following the Americans’ takeover in 2005.

And author Chris Blackhurst reveals that the club at one stage toyed with the idea of letting supporters at the Stretford End and the East Stand attend matches for nothing – provided they added to the atmosphere.

The Glazers once considered allowing the club’s most passionate supporters to attend for free

‘The World’s Biggest Cash Machine’ was released this week

Believing that enhancing the crowd noise around the ground would boost the experience for those in hospitality and watching on TV at home, the book reveals that board members wanted to hand fans voice meters to wear on lanyards around their necks during matches.

Those who sung for the desired amount of time – and at the desired volume – would have the cost of their ticket for the game covered by the club.

Those calling the shots at the time believed that the money gained from an improved hospitality offering and TV rights would more than cover the cost of handing out complimentary tickets.

Unfortunately for those supporters at both ends the idea proved short-lived, with the Glazers’ legacy cemented by the fact the club are now one of just seven in the top-flight to demand north of £1,000 for some season tickets.

Fletchers right to be flexible

You take the high road and I’ll take the low road … Darren Fletcher’s twin sons Tyler and Jack are following their own career paths when it comes to playing for England and Scotland.

The Manchester-born 16-year-olds, who moved to United from City in the summer for a combined fee of £1.25m, have represented both countries as is commonplace for young players these days.

But talk of the Fletchers choosing – or indeed switching – their international allegiance is said to be wide of the mark. At no point have the teenagers chosen one country or turned down another. By accepting the call-ups, they are simply taking the opportunity to further their football development at a key stage in their careers.

Darren Fletcher’s sons have represented both England and Scotland in the youth levels

Jack (left) and Tyler (right) both moved from Man City to Man United in the summer

Having helped England win the Montaigu Tournament in France in April, Tyler played for Scotland Under-17s against Belarus at the weekend. Jack has previously played for Scotland but will be named in the England squad again on Tuesday.

Darren, now United’s technical director, won 80 caps for Scotland but will be a proud father either way.

Unhappy fans are out of Toon

Supporters have again been left frustrated by the Premier League after United’s trip to Newcastle in December was again placed in the Saturday 8pm slot.

The clash at St James’ Park on December 2 will be the third late kick-off United have had on a Saturday already this season, more than any other club.

And while some will no doubt be relishing a night out after the match in a city with arguably the best nightlife in the country, fans will be left counting the cost of the league and the broadcasters’ scheduling.

The last train to Manchester from Newcastle leaves at half-time, forcing many to fork out for expensive hotels and accommodation just weeks before Christmas.

Supporters are frustrated that in December they will face a third Saturday late kick-off of the season, this time at St James’s Park 

Although fans may have understandable grievances, Confidential understands the club have not raised any objections with the Premier League regarding the inconvenient 8pm slot.

United beat Burnley at Turf Moor in September and Sheffield United at Bramall Lane at the weekend in their other Saturday 8pm kick-offs this season.

Newcastle themselves travelled to Manchester for an 8pm start, losing 1-0 to City in the second week of the campaign.

United top the dirty dozen

No prizes for guessing the 12 clubs that have been ever-present in the Premier League over the last five years, but the one with the worst disciplinary record may come as a surprise.

United are top of the pile based on a scoring system of two points for a red card and one for a yellow, going back to the 2018-19 season, ahead of more likely contenders such as Everton, Wolves and West Ham.

With a total of nine red cards and 386 yellows, United score an average of 2.04 per game, according to the survey by betting comparison provider, with Everton and Tottenham in second and third. Who would have thought it?

The World’s Biggest Cash Machine: Manchester United, the Glazers, and the Struggle for Football’s Soul by Chris Blackhurst is published on Thursday 26th October by Macmillan, £22. 


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