Jadon Sancho during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford, Manchester, April 2023.

Jadon Sancho is back; he ruined two Everton opponents for bloodsport

A glorious spring afternoon at Old Trafford was the perfect setting for Jadon Sancho to remind Manchester United fans, and the wider public, of his immense talent.

As supporters sacked off the tram and strolled to the storied stadium through the parks of Chorlton and Firswood, perhaps dipping into the County Championship match between Lancashire and Surrey en route, the optimism matched the cloudless conditions in Manchester.

United’s win over Brentford on Wednesday, while far from pretty, was a welcome fillip for United’s top-four ambitions. Surely Everton, a side where United have dumped their unwanted offcuts down the years, wouldn’t spoil the mood?

They wouldn’t. Fearing a hammering that’d sink their goal difference, Sean Dyche set up his Everton side in a defensive formation that hoped to pinch a goal from a set-piece.

Those tactics might have worked against inferior United sides, but Erik ten Hag’s work-in-progress barely had to break a sweat to earn a comfortable 2-0 victory.

In the absence of jeopardy or the sheen of competitiveness between the two sides, the real story of the afternoon was Sancho’s continuing renaissance.

The winger started the victory over Brentford and retained his place, assisting the opening goal for Scott McTominay, having seemingly having promised Ten Hag to tuck into the Everton defence like a recently-released hostage tackling a Chinese banquet.

And Sancho ruined the professional reputations of Demarai Gray and Amadou Onana for bloodsport during a chastening first half for the Toffees.

Taking possession of the ball in the game’s early stages, Sancho raced down the left wing with the intent to cause harm.

Both Gray and Onana raced in like over-eager firemen to douse the danger, but ended up looking like fools at the feet of the United winger.

Gray tried to tackle Sancho but, after a cunning change of pace from the man in possession, fell arse over tit onto the Old Trafford turf.

And Onana fared equally badly; his attempt at dispossessing Sancho was floored by the same turn of pace and saw him join Gray for an improvised grass sandwich.

Whatever happens with Sancho, credit has to go to Erik ten Hag for managing his absence and return to the first team in a mature and progressive manner.

“I am pleased and proud he did it,” Ten Hag said after Sancho scored against Leeds in February.

“It is clear it is a difficult period but he finds himself out and he needs credit for that. He is a brilliant footballer and if he can invest in the right levels he can be outstanding.

“I will back him, the coaches will and the team will but finally he has to do it himself. It is in his own hands. If he wants, he can do.

“We now have a team that can play in the opponents’ half. He likes that. He can play in tight areas. At this moment he is in a good mood and it will strengthen him, it will motivate him to give more.

“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.

“We know he is a magnificent football player and he can consistently have a big impact, but he has to work every day very hard. I enjoyed it [his goal].”

With United still in three competitions, the return to form of Sancho couldn’t have come at a better time for his club.

And his moment of bewitching skill produced the same level of sunny endorphins as the cloudless sky above Old Trafford yesterday.

By Michael Lee

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