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Editor hits back after Man United ban sports reporter from press conference

A regional daily editor has urged Premier League giants Manchester United to ‘look closer to home’ for the source of their troubles after one of its journalists was banned from attending a club press conference.

Manchester Evening News editor Sarah Lester hit back at the Old Trafford hierarchy after the paper’s chief Manchester United writer Samuel Luckhurst was blocked from questioning manager Erik Ten Hag on Tuesday.

It is understood the Reds boss was upset with aspects of the MEN coverage after Sam suggested some players within the dressing room were unhappy with their manager’s methods.

United have struggled this season and defeat at Newcastle on Saturday sparked an MEN investigation into the club’s issues both on and off the field.

How the MEN covered the ban on their back page.

How the MEN covered the ban on their back page.

In a comment piece which formed part of a special reaction package in Wednesday’s print edition, also posted online, Sarah reminded United officials that while the MEN wanted the best for them, they were ‘not on the club’s payroll’.

In an earlier post on social media platform ‘X’, Samuel revealed how club communications director Andrew Ward had blocked a number of media representatives from joining the pre-Chelsea game press conference.

It is understood that journalists from Sky Sports, the Mirror and ESPN were also informed they were no longer welcome to attend.

Wednesday’s edition of the The MEN ran with a deep blurb on its front page with a quote from Samuel which read: ‘I pointed out United dressing room issues and was BANNED’ and a back page headline: ‘Ban United.’

Sarah’s comment piece read: “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.

“Our job is to report what’s happening in the organisations that matter to our readers. And that includes our great football clubs.

“We do not publish anything lightly and all of our stories are sourced and checked. We have a responsibility to the readers who place such trust in us to faithfully report what we know and what we see.

“That’s why Manchester United’s decision to ban our Chief Manchester United writer from attending a press conference – for reporting a story in good faith – is so concerning.

“We want to have a cordial and positive relationship with those at Old Trafford. The club was still called Newton Heath L&YR Football Club when we first began reporting on them.

“When the Munich Air Disaster robbed the club – and the city – of some of its brightest stars, our reporter Tom Jackson was among the dead.

“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.

“It’s at press conferences where our journalists get the chance to ask questions on behalf of all these supporters. To be shut out for reporting a story we know to be accurate is wrong.

“That said, we largely have a productive relationship with Manchester United and we want that to continue. Our role is that of a concerned friend. Our preference is to move on.

“We suggest United looks closer to home for the sources of the disquiet – rather than shooting the messenger.”

In an inside piece giving an in-depth review of the fall-out,  Samuel’s went into the reasons for the ban in greater detail.

He wrote: “The Manchester Evening News is among the outlets that have been banned by Manchester United from today’s press conference over coverage of their worst start to a season since the club was last relegated.

“The MEN and three other outlets have been blocked from attending Erik ten Hag’s pre-match press conference for the Chelsea game on Tuesday afternoon.

“A United spokesperson claims the ban has been imposed as the club was not approached for comment on a multiple-sourced story that Ten Hag is losing the confidence of some players over his tactics and signings. United insist they ‘regret’ the ban.”

Ten Hag said of the bans: “They (journalists) should come to us first and not go around our back printing articles, that is not the right thing… they should come to us beforehand, we have a normal and professional discussion and debate about it.”