There is one major change that is needed under Erik ten Hag for Jadon Sancho to thrive at Manchester United
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Manchester United’s win over Everton was one of the team’s best performances under Erik ten Hag and a much needed win, but it wasn’t so great for everyone.
Noticeably excluded from the line-up, and denied a substitute appearance, Jadon Sancho watched the entire win from the Manchester United bench at Goodison Park.
Ironically, the way the game was played out in the first half in particular would have been perfect for him to try and find some form again.
Yet even when Anthony Martial went down injured, with the game at 1-1 and momentum entirely in United’s favour, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who was brought on rather than Sancho, who has started over Ronaldo all season.
United’s possession dominance, territory, and even possession shape of a 3-1-6 all would have suited the way Sancho plays but he was not given a sniff, and Ten Hag did exactly what he needed to do with him in this case.
A nice example of our 3-1-6 setup yesterday:— UtdArena (@UtdArena) October 10, 2022
Martínez and Lindelöf were constant in the 3 with a rotating other. Casemiro often as the 1. Eriksen, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial (Ronaldo), Antony and a FB as the front six stretching EVE's 5-4-1 horizontally. pic.twitter.com/rpmhJPar1K
First things first, it has to be said. Jadon Sancho is not a bad football player. Far from it. But, it also must be said that in his United career so far he has underwhelmed.
His first season is a poor barometer to judge any player on given the chaotic state of the club, much less a new, young signing.
The Englishman’s career so far makes it difficult to remember just how young he still is. For it was only when he was 19-20 years old that he was having a 20 goal 20 assist season for Borussia Dortmund.
Some will blame this idea of a ‘Bundesliga tax’, and those people should be completely ignored. The two best players in England right now, both on the other side of Manchester in Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, came from the same league.
No amount of league ‘tax’ can downplay how impressive this feat is, even some of the all time great attackers have never done this.
More crucially, no amount of league ‘tax’ can justify a drop off as big as Sancho’s was from even his final season in Dortmund, where he dropped off from 2019/20, to his first United season.
In his second season he has improved from his first, his goal-scoring has at least – but he is still blowing hot and cold far too much for people’s liking.
A large part of this is down to his environment, and whilst he is far from blameless but this will be spoken about later.
United have not facilitated Sancho’s qualities well enough. Not a kick and run winger who will burst through teams and score goals ala Marcus Rashford, he is a player who thrives in combination play and likes to handle the ball in the final third.
He is often seen dropping into the second phase to get on the ball and advance it up the pitch too, and he historically does this extremely well.
At United his usage rate has near-halved from what it was at Dortmund, where it was on par with Bruno Fernandes’ usage rate at United.
Whether or not the club should give him that high a usage rate isn’t my point, but with how little he is touching the ball right now he will likely not get better any time soon.
On the contrary, when he does touch the ball he is not doing enough with it. He isn’t attempting to take players on, play incisive passes or take on shots nearly as much as he was at Dortmund.
On this basis, should he be given a greater usage rate if at Old Trafford he has not done enough to show that he should? It is a paradox similar to the job-experience paradox, nicely depicted in this comic below.
(Daily One Liner)
To sum it up, Sancho needs to see more of the ball for his quality to be maximised. But he needs to show more of his quality when he does have the ball in order to justify seeing more of it.
This isn’t the first issue Erik ten Hag has had to solve, and absolutely no chance it will be the last. Yet so far, he has handled things excellently.
Anthony Martial was coming from a much worse place than Sancho, and when he has been fit this season the number nine has shown some of his very finest form. He is currently considered undroppable.
Ten Hag will undoubtedly have a plan for Sancho, and he should be trusted with this as fans have seen how much impact he has made in such a short time. It is frustrating, but patience is needed.
No footballer likes to be on the bench. Footballers as good, with as high status, as United’s number 25 like it even less so. So now he needs to react in the right way.
Sancho needs only look to club & country teammate Luke Shaw’s performance last night as evidence of how to react. Since half time against Brentford back in August, Shaw had not started a game for United.
Part of this was down to fitness but the fact remains that last night was his first start since that tragic afternoon, and he produced a performance of a level United fans have not seen since the Euros.
Tyrell Malacia is a fighter, and a genuinely talented young player. Knowing that he’ll be on his back, Shaw will be forced to keep up this level for the safety of his spot and it is likely he’ll oblige.
United have Rashford finding his best form again and Antony hitting the ground running at Old Trafford, with young players like Anthony Elanga and Alejandro Garnacho constantly knocking on the door.
Links to players like Cody Gakpo too, have not disappeared. There is no shortage of competition in attacking spots at Manchester United, and it will only get tougher.
How Jadon Sancho responds now will dictate whether his Old Trafford dream sinks or swims. For the sake of the club let’s hope that it starts to swim, and do so sooner rather than later.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
Topics: Manchester United, Jadon Sancho, Erik Ten Hag