Jadon Sancho the big winner of Solskjaer’s Man Utd exit after Villarreal impact

After 14 frustrating matches, Jadon Sancho finally opened his Manchester United account with a well deserved goal in the team’s 2-0 win over Villarreal on Tuesday night

Villarreal v Manchester United: Match in Pictures

Jadon Sancho may wish that his Manchester United career started on November 23, rather than July 23.

When Sancho signed for United he wasn’t just switching countries and teams, he was taking on the heavy burden of expectancy.

United had chased his signature for some time. The club’s fans had plenty of time to hype his arrival.

Here was the answer to all their prayers: a talented, young, exciting winger with a proven track record in terms of goals and assists.

Sancho cost £72million. He is the club’s fourth most expensive player of all time, behind only Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

Jadon Sancho finally got his first goal for Manchester United on Tuesday


David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

His form with Borussia Dortmund suggested he was worth it. Sancho contributed 50 goals and 64 assists in 137 games, after all.

But after a chastening Euro 2020 final with England and an extended holiday, Sancho arrived at Old Trafford a very different player to the one United supporters were expecting.

The 21-year-old was struggling with an ear infection then soon picked up a calf injury. When he was fit, he was frequently on the bench, alongside Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard, as Solskjaer struggled to keep everyone happy in his bloated squad.

Before Tuesday night’s trip to face Villarreal, Sancho had gone 14 games for United without picking up a goal or an assist for United. He endured 654 minutes of frustration.

Solskjaer’s sacking opened the door for Sancho. In his pre-match interview with BT Sport on Tuesday Carrick promised a “fresh start” for United’s players.

That was backed up by his starting XI, which included four changes and saw Sancho, Van de Beek, Alex Telles and Anthony Martial brought in from the cold.

Michael Carrick has brought Donny van de Beek and Jadon Sancho in from the cold


David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

While the other three failed to make much of an impact, it was to be a night of redemption for Sancho.

Initially it looked like it was not to be; that his bright performance, with a few darting runs and promising crosses, would peter out into nothing substantive.

Sancho exchanged passes with Bruno Fernandes and cut inside to open up a shooting chance, only for Geronimo Rulli to save with his feet.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner – a well-taken lob after Villarreal surrendered possession – then made sure of progression to the last-16 of the Champions League. But something was missing to make it a real feel-good night for the visitors.

That changed in the 90th minute when United sprang forward for one last time through Marcus Rashford.

The ball made its way across the penalty area to Sancho on the right-hand side. With his confidence back, he simply took a touch and blasted the ball towards goal, before looking up to see it hit the underside of the bar and bounce down into the net.

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Jadon Sancho blasted in off the underside of the bar


Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

The celebrations with his team-mates showed what it meant to him and the team, while messages of support from Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, among others, followed on Twitter.

After the match, Carrick echoed what everyone else had thought – that this match could be the start of Sancho’s United career.

“It’s up to Jadon what happens next, how he kicks on, he has all the talent in the world,” Carrick said in his post-match press conference.

“He’ll feel better tonight after how he played. It was a big goal for him.”

While the pre-match conversation in the BT Sport studio had all been about the mess United had got themselves into under Solskjaer, the post-match chat was different.

“I think he was Manchester United’s best player tonight. They need to use him more,” Paul Scholes said. “He looks like the player we signed for £70 odd million.”

Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United career did officially start on July 23. But, after 14 disappointing appearances, it can finally spark into life from November 23.

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