Sancho is ready to fill nutmeg void left by Rashford – just ask Upamecano

After playing through the pain barrier for several months, Manchester United‘s Marcus Rashford has finally had to give in and accept defeat. 

According to The Daily Telegraph, Rashford will undergo surgery to fix a long-standing shoulder complaint and could spend 12 weeks on the sidelines.

United will be starting the 2021-22 season without a player who registered 21 goals and 15 assists in 57 appearances in all competitions in 2020-21. But more importantly, they’ll have to cope without his wonderful nutmegs.

Rashford cemented his status as the nutmeg king last season, registering more nutmegs (21) in 2020-21 than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. The 23-year-old has added the likes of Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka, John McGinn, Emil Krafth and Phil Jagielka to his long list of victims in recent months. As the old saying goes, he could nutmeg a mermaid.

While a lot of modern footballers only seem to care about their statistics, Rashford has always been a natural showman first and foremost.

“He was a little boy who wanted to kick a football about, have some fun and basically take the piss out of the coaches as much as he could,” Dave Horrocks, Rashford’s first coach at youth side Fletcher Moss Rangers, told the PA news agency in July 2021.

“There was a Premier League statistic recently about the number of nutmegs Marcus has done, and he would do that at soccer school to the coaches. We’d never go out and make life particularly difficult for them but one of the challenges was, ‘Who can you nutmeg – but you have to call it.’ He would do it to anyone on the pitch.

“It’s great when you have a kid who has so much love for football and rises to the challenge as a five or six-year-old, and he goes away giggling because he has ‘megged you.”

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READ: ‘Not a killer’? Rashford’s destruction of Emil Krafth showed his brutal side

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Rashford’s technical ingenuity and long-standing desire to humiliate people have made the academy graduate a fan favourite at United.

But in a cruel twist of fate, the headline act now won’t be able to perform when Old Trafford returns to full capacity for the first time since March 2020.

Fortunately for United, their new £73million signing is cut from the same cloth as Rashford and is ready to fill the nutmeg void.

Having idolised Ronaldinho while growing up in south London, Jadon Sancho still plays football like a game of FIFA street, hoping to put on a show and display his tantalising skill set.

Back in 2018, Sancho admitted that he had been told off by his Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund team-mates after constantly nutmegging them in training. 

“I nutmegged the captains of Dortmund (Marcel Schmelzer) and City (Vincent Kompany) and they said, ‘Don’t do that again.’ They don’t like it,” he said in an interview with JD Sports.

While his team-mates are able to make Sancho stop embarrassing them, his poor and helpless opponents don’t have the same luxury.

Since making the risky move to Germany in 2017, the playground footballer has played with the same carefree spirit that he had at youth level.

“The street football will never leave me,” Sancho told Dortmund’s YouTube channel in 2019. “I grew up with it. What I learned from street football is what I have always been doing. It is very different. Football is about having fun.”

During a Champions League last-16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain in February 2020, the winger started enjoying himself like a kid at a water park.

Sancho came up against Neymar in a battle for nutmeg supremacy and decided to assert his authority by picking on Marco Verratti.

The England international cooly rolled the ball through the legs of Verratti, who was left seeing nothing but a cloud of Sancho’s dust.

He took his game up another level with 16 nutmegs in 2020-21, only Rashford and Neymar registered more in Europe’s top five leagues.

Despite scoring twice in Dortmund’s 3-2 win over RB Leipzig in May 2021, the real moment of the game came when he utterly humiliated Dayot Upamecano.

Upamecano, who has already secured a £38.5million move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, is one of Europe’s most highly-rated defenders.

But he just couldn’t live with Sancho and his quick feet, falling for a dummy near the penalty area before seeing the ball slip through his legs.

While Sancho and Rashford didn’t get many opportunities under Gareth Southgate at Euro 2020, the duo still made a huge impression on their England team-mates.

“I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for getting ‘megged when I come here – like you wouldn’t believe,” Conor Coady told England’s official podcast in June 2021.

“Like you wouldn’t believe. Sancho has done me a few times in the boxes. I’d probably say him. Rashy has done me a few times, if I’m being honest. Those two are really, really sharp.

“The amount of talent that’s here is incredible and it’s really, really tough training against them every day.”

If Rashford was ever going to handle the nutmeg mantle over to anyone for a few months, there’s nobody who deserves it more than Sancho.

By Nathan Egerton

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