Manchester United’s return to action after the 2022 World Cup sets them up with busy schedule at the start of 2023.
The Red Devils eased past Burnley in their first game back on duty with a 2-0 Carabao Cup victory at Old Trafford — a positive result and performance as Erik ten Hag looks to build momentum for the coming months.
Ten Hag could look to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window with Dutch duo Frenkie de Jong and Cody Gakpo both on his rumoured list of targets.
The prospect of new faces will increase competition for places at United and could cast further uncertainty on the future of England international Jadon Sancho. The winger has completed 90 minutes in the Premier League just once since the start of October and has not been in the United matchday squad since the 1-1 draw with Chelsea on October 22.
He has been working individually to regain sharpness since the start of the World Cup, but there remains little indication as to when he will return.
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What’s happening with Jadon Sancho?
At the moment, Sancho appears unlikely to return to action for United imminently. He has missed the Red Devils’ past seven games in all competitions and has only completed 90 minutes once since mid-September.
After being overlooked for England’s World Cup squad, the 22-year-old began training with coaches recommended by United manager Ten Hag in a bid to improve his match sharpness, both physically and mentally. There is not yet any certainty over when he will be back in the first team.
Sancho’s struggles are notable given the fan-fair that greeted his arrival at Old Trafford. United’s attempts to sign Sancho ahead of the 2020/21 season were thwarted by Borussia Dortmund but they returned with an improved offer a year later to sign him for a reported fee of £73 million ($100 million).
After a slow start to the 2021/22 campaign, he ended the season with five goals in all competitions, despite the managerial upheaval at Old Trafford.
The early signs under Ten Hag looked positive, with Sancho starting in United’s first six Premier League games of the season and scoring key goals in wins over Liverpool and Leicester City.
However, a bout of tonsillitis and the arrival of Antony saw him edged out of the starting XI, and his morale took a major blow when he was omitted from England’s squad for the World Cup in Qatar. He then began training individually, following a suggestion from Ten Hag, at Dutch club OJC Rosmalen.
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What has Ten Hag said about Sancho?
Sancho lost his place as a starter under Ten Hag prior to the World Cup, which prompted speculation on his long-term intentions for the former Manchester City youngster.
The Dutch coach hinted at his omission from England’s UEFA Nations League squad in September as a crucial downturn for Sancho as his confidence began to slip.
“Sometimes there are circumstances with fitness and mood. He is not currently in the right status or fitness state,” Ten Hag said during the World Cup in December.
“I’ve had several talks with Jadon. He’s on a physical programme and our aim is to get him back as quickly as possible, but I can’t give a prognosis of when that will be.
“At the start of the season, he had goals and assists, but his key moments and key actions became less and less. It’s a combination of physical, but also mental. We’re trying to work and get him back to his best.”
Erik ten Hag has revealed Jadon Sancho has not been “in the right fitness state” as he trains away from the Manchester United first team. pic.twitter.com/AYC7x8aptb
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 14, 2022
Sancho was not included in United’s World Cup training camp in Spain, instead travelling for a specialist programme in the Netherlands, but his progress remains slow.
Ten Hag was quizzed about the latest on Sancho following the Burnley win, but he gave a perfunctory reply when he was asked for an update on when Sancho will return to the United fold.
“Do you have any update on Sancho and when he’s coming back?”.
Erik ten Hag: “No”.@footballdaily #MUFC 🔴🎥 pic.twitter.com/15LaEWWubI
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 21, 2022
Asked whether he’d be in contention to play against Nottingham Forest in their Premier League return on December 27, he added: “I don’t think so.”
Jadon Sancho transfer fee
United’s 2020 interest in Sancho ended when they were unable to agree a fee with Dortmund, who were eager to recoup a significant fee for a player who had shone for three years in the Bundesliga.
Despite the stand-off, United returned with an improved £73m ($100m) offer in July 2021, and Dortmund accepted, with Sancho agreeing a five-year deal at Old Trafford.
The move represented a huge profit for Dortmund. They paid around £8m/$9.6m to bring him in from the Manchester City academy in 2017.
Dortmund have established a policy of looking to sell one key player per season, with Sancho’s 2021 move followed by Erling Haaland joining Manchester City in 2022, and a potential 2023 exit for Sancho’s England teammate Jude Bellingham.
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Jadon Sancho stats
Sancho has endured a mixed overall career at United, with just eight goals and four assists in 51 appearances across all competitions since the start of 2021/22.
Those numbers show a major dip from his Dortmund days, where Sancho plundered 50 goals and 64 assists in his four seasons in Germany.
78 – Since the start of the 2018-19 season Jadon Sancho has been directly involved in 78 goals in the Bundesliga (37 goals, 41 assists), no Englishman recorded more goals and assists in Europe’s top 5 leagues in that period. Farewell. https://t.co/mqdcBhVj88 pic.twitter.com/pxXmbuRiQZ
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) July 1, 2021
In 2022/23, Sancho has scored three goals and set up another in 14 games for United in all competitions. He has been substituted 10 times, the most of anyone under Ten Hag, highlighting his lack of impact in many of his appearances.
However, Sancho has managed an average of 1.69 chances created per 90 minutes, which is a better return than Antony (1.41), Anthony Elanga (1.41), Marcus Rashford (1.14) and Cristiano Ronaldo (1.03), according to Opta data.
Will Man United sell Jadon Sancho?
Sancho looks unlikely to leave United in the January window despite facing a battle to prove himself to Ten Hag. United consider him a first-team player — one in whom a significant amount of money has been invested — and the manager is giving him the chance to regain fitness and focus before coming back to push for a return to regular football.
There has been speculation United could let Sancho leave on loan in January in a bid to reinvigorate the player, much as they did with Jesse Lingard, who thrived during a spell at West Ham in the second half of 2021/22. However, with Cristiano Ronaldo having left the club, Ten Hag is unlikely to sanction further attacking departures midway through the season unless he can bring in replacements.
Still, if Ten Hag remains unconvinced by the end of the campaign, Sancho could become available for transfer, particularly with United eager to generate extra funds through player sales. The prospect of a return to the Bundesliga, perhaps to Dortmund, could appeal.
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