When Manchester United completed the £72.9m capture of long-term transfer target Jadon Sancho in July, everyone expected the England international to be an automatic shoe on the right flank.
Instead, Sancho has not had the desired impact that everyone associated with United, least of all the winger himself, hoped for. Certainly not yet, anyway.
But despite United’s nightmare against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Friday night, Sancho at least gave fans something to smile about.
His performance oozed hard work, dedication, plenty of racing and of course he scored his first goal at Old Trafford.
Even if it was only against a Championship opponent, it was a step in the right direction and a platform for the former Borussia Dortmund man to now develop as he looks to bring his United career to life at a crucial time in the season. .
But while United’s vast options have diminished significantly since the start of the season due to the loan departures of Anthony Martial and Amad and the suspension of Mason Greenwood, Sancho is still not guaranteed an automatic starting spot in Ralf’s preferred starting line-up. Rannick.
That’s due to recent contributions from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga.
Despite concerns about Rashford’s form over the Christmas period, the Englishman has scored two goals in his last three appearances, suggesting he is staging a personal comeback of his own.
He came off the bench to score against Brentford and West Ham, helping United to an invaluable six points, but he failed to make any real impact against Middlesbrough, with his only notable highlight of the game coming when he scored an effort at the First half. out for offside.
Meanwhile, Elanga has captured the hearts of many United supporters in the three league games leading up to the winter break, producing encouraging and courageous performances, which also included a goal in a 3-1 win over Brentford.
He is still only 19 years old, but Elanga has put himself firmly in the frame to be considered for a regular opening spot. One could even argue, perhaps, that Rangnick’s decision to start on the bench against Chris Wilder’s side on Friday night was an early indicator that he will retain his place in United’s Premier League XI for Tuesday’s trip to Burnley.
Everyone will have their opinions and preferences on who they would like to see in the two open positions for that league game, but Rangnick will leave someone disappointed, meaning his selection decision against the Clarets could be among his toughest. United tenure so far.
Rashford, Sancho and Elanga, all of whom have talent and potential in abundance, bring their own qualities to the table. With two of the three deflected, United should not lack pace, cunning and an attacking threat from the flanks.
It would be tough to leave Elanga out of the squad after such encouraging performances before the recent Premier League break, while Rashford also deserves a chance to return after scoring two goals in his last two league substitute appearances. Sancho, too, has to be taken into account after leaving his letter of introduction in the glass.
Regardless of what Rangnick decides, unless he springs an unexpected surprise and starts all three, one of them will be disappointed. But that disappointment should translate into motivation to work even harder, impress in training camp and push the two winners of this particular battle and raise the level of competition for places.
It will create a headache for Rangnick, but at least it will be a positive.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.