Erik ten Hag was happy to see Jadon Sancho score again for Manchester United on Wednesday night in their 2-2 stalemate against Leeds United, but at the same time cautioned the winger that he must keep working hard if he wants to keep earning opportunities in the first team. Sancho had been in a three-month hiatus, battling mental health struggles and hadn’t played since last October before making a comeback against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup semifinal earlier this month.
Even though the Red Devils’ 2-2 draw with Leeds at Old Trafford seems a disappointing outcome which halted their streak of 13 wins in a row at home, it at least feels more encouraging given the fact that they staged a comeback from two goals down. Jadon Sancho, who had been left out of the team and even the matchday squads, came off the bench to score the equaliser, his first goal for the club since September.
Ten Hag wants Jadon Sancho to ‘work hard’ in order to avoid another setback
Jadon Sancho hasn’t been able to justify United’s decision so far to splash £75m on him in the summer of 2021. The winger has just given 9 goals and 4 assists in return, with both physical and mental struggles keeping him from delivering the performances he once delivered consistently at Borussia Dortmund which had made him the most sought youngster at that time. However, his is time at United has been full of struggles and setbacks, but Jadon Sancho is now slowly and steadily pulling it together and getting back to his best.
While there’s still a far way to go for him, with time being on his side as well given his contract provides him with ample time of three-and-a-half-years to impress Old Trafford, Ten Hag claims that the England international is now prepared to contribute on a regular basis after working away from the first team to improve his condition. The Dutchman told Sky Sports on bringing Jadon Sancho on in the second half:
“I wanted a different dynamic. In that moment we weren’t in the game. Luckily it succeeded because we scored two goals. I’m very happy. He’s all the way back. We know he’s a magnificent player. I think consistently he can have a big impact. But he has to work hard. It will motivate him to get more. I really enjoyed it, especially for him. It will strengthen him.
“If you play a derby you need a different attitude. You have to start and be ready and take responsibility, win your battles and be composed on the ball. I’m very happy for him. Of course also for the team because it’s all about that. But it will encourage him and motivate him further.”
When asked what Jadon Sancho should do to avoid another setback, Ten Hag warned that its in the 22-year-old’s hands while he will make sure that the winger gets all the support from the team and the staff. The United boss said:
“I think it’s in his own hands. So if he wants, he can do [it] and this team is great to play in and will give you joy. I really enjoy seeing him playing the way he did, with so much confidence, so much belief, really direct. It was great to see him play in this attack.
“He is in the right direction and if he keeps going with that process he can do even more to really help us to achieve our goals. As you see, he’s a brilliant footballer and if he invests and he is in the right levels then he can perform outstandingly.
“I think we now have a team that can dictate games more in the opponent’s half – he likes that. He can play in tight areas and he can make the difference. The second goal shows it but also when he came on last week we saw that as well.
“It was a difficult period but he fight himself out [it]. He needs credit for that and I’m pleased, I’m proud he did it. I will back him, the coaches are backing him, the team is backing him and supporting him in this process. But finally he has to do it by himself.
“You can see when he’s in a good level he is an outstanding football player, he’s brilliant. He can make the difference and I hope he can stay in this mood and contribute to this team and score a lot of goals and create chances and assists.”