The Manchester Evening News has launched a broadside Manchester United FC after the club banned the paper, alongside journalists from Sky News and The Mirror, from Erik Ten Hag’s press conference yesterday.
The ban on reporters came after several sources reported that Ten Hag had “lost the dressing room” at the club, and was accompanied by a statement from the club insisting that the ban was “not for publishing stories we don’t like, but for doing so without contacting us first to give us the opportunity to comment, challenge or contextualise.”
In an op-ed by MEN executive editor Sarah Lester last night, the MEN hit back: “Manchester United is a Mancunian institution. It’s a privilege to have them on our doorstep and to cover them minutely. But we are not on the club’s payroll,” the piece opened.
She added that banning the paper’s chief United reporter for covering a story in good faith was concerning, and went on to point out the long history between the football club and the main newspaper of the city it calls home: “The club was still called Newton Heath L&YR Football Club when we first began reporting on them,” she reminded the current Old Trafford chiefs, who have been around a significantly shorter period and pointing to key historical moments from the Munich air disaster to the club’s historic treble and the drama of the Glazer Family’s contentious 2005 takeover as times when the paper and the club have stood side by side.
Returning to the present, Lester continued: “We cannot ignore what we know is happening. It is in the interest of the supporters. And it’s in the interests of the club.
Contrary to what a broadcaster told Erik ten Hag last week, we do not ‘like’ to see United in crisis. There’s a big overlap between our readership and the loyal match-going fanbase of Manchester’s clubs.
And there are many around the world who rely on our pages to keep in touch with the club they love.”
The editor defended the dressing room story, which she claimed the paper knows to be correct, but insisted that it still wants to have a productive relationship with United, likening its role to that of a concerned friend.
She concluded: “We suggest United looks closer to home for the sources of the disquiet – rather than shooting the messenger.”