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regular-article-logo Friday, 29 September 2023

Premier League: Comeback man earns crucial point

This was Sancho’s second appearance since returning to squad after a long 'reset' period and, after being struck down by illness at the weekend

James Ducker Manchester Published 10.02.23, 04:28 AM
Erik ten Hag.

Erik ten Hag. File picture

There were two comebacks in one for Manchester United to celebrate here. It has been a tough road to mental and physical recovery for Jadon Sancho after three months out of the picture this season. But the sight of the England winger popping up to score the goal that earned Erik ten Hag’s side a precious point that had looked unlikely when Leeds went 2-0 in front early in the second half felt like a big moment for player and club.

This was Sancho’s second appearance since returning to the squad after a long “reset” period and, after being struck down by illness at the weekend, he was not considered ready to start. But he came off the bench to help swing this game back in Manchester United’s favour and keep managerless Leeds still waiting for a first league win since early November.

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United had got off to the worst possible start when Wilfried Gnonto scored inside a minute, before Raphael Varane’s own goal left them with a big job on their hands. But Marcus Rashford pulled one back and then Sancho got the equaliser when he shot crept under Illan Meslier after superb work by Luke Shaw.

There had been 20 goals in the previous four league meetings between these two and it quickly became apparent that this was going to be another game not short on drama.

Leeds were in front after just 55 seconds and it is fair to say Patrick Bamford will have been a lot happier than he was during the 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest at the weekend. In what would prove Jesse Marsch’s final game in charge before his sacking on Monday, Bamford had complained about being isolated and a lack of runners. No such issues here.

Manchester United simply were not ready for their opponents’ explosive start and, when Bruno Fernandes was hounded out of possession by a combination of the terrier-like Tyler Adams and Pascal Struijk, Gnonto was high up the pitch and perfectly positioned to play a quick one-two with Bamford, sweep inside Fred and thump a bullet shot low into the corner.

Michael Skubala, Leeds’s caretaker manager, had made only two selection changes but the trick was to deploy Jack Harrison through the middle as a false nine, pushing Bamford to an inside-right position and keeping the midfield three compact. It took Ten Hag’s side a good 15 minutes to get to grips before they found their stride and started asking their own questions.

Luke Ayling had his hands full with Alejandro Garnacho but Leeds had other obstacles to contend with, too, not least the loss due to injury of Luis Sinisterra and then Struijk, who had started so well, in the first 23 minutes.

The Daily Telegraph in London

Ten Hag ‘happy for’ Sancho

Manchester: ManchesterUnited manager Erik ten Hag said forward Jadon Sancho’sfuture was in his “own hands” after conceding the England international underwent a difficult period before getting back among the goals against Leeds United on Wednesday.

“I am really happy he is(heading) in the right direction,” Ten Hag said. “I hope he can keep his momentum going and I am sure it will strengthen him and motivate him even more. He is a brilliant footballer and if he can invest in the right levels he can be outstanding.

“We now have a team that can play in the opponents’ half, he likes that, he can play in tight areas. It is in his own hands and so if he wants, he can do it. It is a difficult period but I am pleased and proud he did it so I will back him, the coaches will, and the team, but finally he has to do it himself.”

Reuters

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