Manchester United might've only played two pre-season games so far, but a number of players have started to really stand out on Erik ten Hag's first tour with the club.
With eight goals in just two games, it hasn't taken long for the offensive juices to start flowing for the Reds.
Although Ten Hag has reiterated that there is still much work to be done, we can also highlight the players who are showing signs that they could thrive under the Dutchman.
Jadon Sancho is one who is clearly going to enjoy life under the new manager. We have already seen why in the pre-season fixtures so far.
Two examples that show why Jadon Sancho will thrive under Erik ten Hag
The English winger has been the standout player in the opening fixtures. Jadon Sancho had a difficult debut campaign with Manchester United, but already is proving that he'll be a key player with Ten Hag at the helm.
In his cameos against both Liverpool and Melbourne Victory, Sancho is already displaying confidence on ball with more runners around him.
It was always going to be the case that the playmaking wide man would excel once there was a better offensive rhythm and more runners to find. While the finished product is no where near, the building blocks appear to be there for Sancho, and his teammates, to operate with.
Against Liverpool, there was one clear example that having willing runners to exploit space was perfect for Sancho.
Following a wonderful switch of play from Bruno Fernandes, Sancho received the ball in space on the right.
You'd believe that most wingers would want to take on their full-back and shoot at goal in this situation. But, Sancho's architect is one that looks to find a runner and exploit the space in a more reliable way.
In this case, Diogo Dalot is making an underlapping run from deep. The Portuguese had often been drifting infield during build-up. which gives him this licence to help his winger in transition.
Dalot's underlapping run was found expertly by Sancho, whose weight of pass was brilliant. The right-back smashed the underside of the crossbar with a fierce shot, which denied the no.25 of an assist.
The second example of Sancho thriving with more willing runners was shown in the build up for Anthony Martial's goal against Melbourne Victory in Australia.
However, this time, the play comes through a spell of more settled possession for United. This shows the importance of the movement and runs made in these situations.
Last season, we saw too often that Sancho would receive that ball in similar positions to the following example, but a lack of movement and runs from teammates would negate the wingers on ball impact.
To start, with Harry Maguire set to give the ball to Sancho on the touchline, the winger has players around him to link up with. Dalot, again, is advanced on the inside. He is joined by midfielders Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay in close proximity.
Following on from this, Dalot makes a run beyond the backline which does two important things:
- Ensures that Sancho is not double-teamed and that he can isolate his marker.
- Makes the opposition backline drop slightly deeper, giving more space to operate on the edge of the box.
Bruno then also drifts towards Sancho so he can bounce a one-two and create space for Sancho to move centrally with the ball.
With Sancho able to adjust his position with the ball, he then sees the space in behind open up for Dalot to run into. The right-back makes a second run in behind and is expertly found by Sancho. Dalot then puts in a cut-back cross which leads to Martial's goal.
It's no surprise that Ten Hag wants his side to generate more cutback situations when he has a player like Sancho, who can consistently play these passes in behind a backline when he has the movement and runs from his teammates.
“It’s cutbacks, it’s getting in the box, all of us, not just myself,” Scott McTominay said when asked about the chances created against Melbourne. “I know I can score more goals, it’s all the players, the manager wants more players in the box, as that’s where you score goals, and that’s the most important thing.”
With Sancho's kryptonite last season being a lack of movement and runners, he will be ready to thrive under Ten Hag this coming term.
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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