Jadon Sancho is a “shadow” of his former self and has a challenge to ignite his Manchester United career, says Jamie Redknapp, whilst Roy Keane is worried for “lost” Marcus Rashford and wants the club to get to the bottom of his dramatic loss of form.
The England duo’s form was discussed in the wake of an impressive first start of the season for Anthony Elanga as Manchester United drew 2-2 with Aston Villa. The 19-year-old was selected ahead of Sancho, who cost United £73m in the summer but only has one Premier League goal to his name this season.
Elanga looked full of intent and energy on the left flank and United missed his influence when he was replaced by Sancho with 12 minutes to play as Ralf Rangnick’s side allowed a two-goal lead to slip.
Rangnick said Elanga “showed what I expected of him and why I decided to play him from the start” when asked whether the young Swedish star is now ahead of Sancho in the pecking order but added: “We’ve got so many games to play, I’m not thinking who is ahead of who.”
However, Redknapp feels Sancho now has a very difficult task of convincing the manager to pick him in front of Elanga.
“Sancho has a massive challenge on,” Redknapp said.
“He made an impact today when he came onto the pitch. When you come on, you hope to make a bit of magic but in this case, he’s come on and the team has drawn 2-2 when he’s supposed to be the player to help the team.
“He’s low on confidence. I’m watching him play and he’s a shadow of the player we saw in the Bundesliga. He’s good in close areas but my biggest worry is that he doesn’t have the pace to run past people.
“That’s why Elanga played today. In the first few minutes, United played a ball down the line and he chased it. Sancho doesn’t do that. That’s a real worry for him. It’s a big challenge for him. He’s got to say he’s up for the challenge and play, train and live right and maybe he can get back in the team.
“It’s a huge challenge for him and Marcus Rashford.”
Rashford was missing through an unspecified injury in the 2-2 draw but his form has been in the spotlight in recent weeks. The England star, who has managed just three goals for his club this season, failed to make an impact in the FA Cup third-round tie at Old Trafford against Villa before being taken off with less than five minutes left. It was the latest in a list of underwhelming performances from the 24-year-old striker.
The situation surrounding Rashford was picked up on by Keane, who has called for the club to make sure the player has the right environment to help him through this tough period of his career.
He said: “What has happened to Rashford? Manchester United need to get to the bottom of it.
“That’s their responsibility when they are working with young players. Rashford has done amazing things over the past few years, on and off the pitch, but clearly something is amiss.
“I watched him on Monday and the lights were on but nobody was home. The kid looks lost. Is it just confidence? There might be something going on off the field. The club and the senior players have to help him and the younger players. There is plenty amiss at United and that needs to be fixed.
“Are the likes of Sancho, Rashford and Greenwood looking at the senior players who should be setting an example. Maybe all of them aren’t? Maybe the young players aren’t that quick to do a bit of extra training afterwards. These are all the finer details for young players to improve on.
“If the culture isn’t right at the club, in terms of the pace of the training, the tempo or the attitude, then you’re going to notice it. There is something missing at United. There are too many loose ends.”
Rangnick: The best we’ve played in my tenure | Martial refused to play
United were 13 minutes away from recording an impressive victory, considering the selection issues Rangnick faced. Despite being without Cristiano Ronaldo due to a hip injury and Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay to suspension, United started with great intent and held a deserving 2-0 lead with Bruno Fernandes scoring twice in a reminder of his importance to this team. Yet, United wilted in the final stages to allow Jacob Ramsey and Philippe Coutinho to strike.
Keane was disappointed with how United let the lead slip, he said: “For United, you get 2-0 in front and you think it’s game over but then we saw the weaknesses in United: that lack of control, particularly in midfield, and they give away a couple of goals they’ll be disappointed with.
“It shows their shortcomings. The table doesn’t lie, they’re seventh now. There are still plusses, there is quality and we saw that today. But there’s still that bit of weakness. There was no aggression. United looked tired in the second half.”
However, Rangnick felt it was the best performance United have shown since he took the reins.
“I felt it was the best game since I came here, in the first half for 30 minutes we dominated the game,” he said.
“We took some steps forward but have a few things to do better.
“The plan was to press them in the midzone and we did that very well in the first 30 minutes, and control the ball, and those were the positives. When you are 2-0 up, you have to defend better than we did in the last 15 minutes.
“We gave away too many balls at times in the last 15 minutes, we were not as compact as before and conceded the two goals. In the last 15 minutes before half-time, we were not as courageous to step up, it was better in the second half and then you have to take the three points home. It feels like a defeat, to be honest.
“Right now is very disappointed. What we showed was a step forward but it is about getting the results. It feels like two points lost and given away.”
Rangnick was also asked about the future of Anthony Martial and his continued absence from the matchday squad. United only named eight substitutes with two goalkeepers among them, with the manager admitting the Frenchman refused to be part of the squad amid speculation of a move away from the club.
“Yes, he didn’t want to be in the squad,” Rangnick said. “He would have been in the squad normally but he didn’t want to and that was the reason why he didn’t travel with us yesterday.”