Manchester United’s unwanted trio now looking to prove themselves all over again

When Manchester United splashed out £73million to sign Jadon Sancho in the summer of 2021, his career looked to be heading in only one direction.

Sancho scored 50 goals and registered 57 assists in 137 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, after backing himself to prove Pep Guardiola wrong when he pushed to leave Manchester City at the age of 17, such was his desperation to play regular first-team football.

The Bundesliga handed him that opportunity and Sancho shone, to the extent that his “dream come true” return to the red side of Manchester was feted across the board. It looked the perfect platform to propel one of Europe’s brightest young talents to the next level.

Alas, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Sancho has shown glimpses of his match-winning brilliance in the 15 months since moving to Old Trafford, but inconsistency – both on an individual level and across the team – has plagued his progress. Thankfully, under Erik ten Hag, he looks to be finding his feet, scoring three times in eight games so far this term, coming again after a difficult debut year.

But the knock-on effects of last season have seen the 22-year-old left on the outside looking in during the international break, not called up by Gareth Southgate to a 28-man England squad. His last of 23 caps came in October 2021 and he’s now seen as more likely to miss the World Cup than be taking it by storm when England head to Qatar in November.

At least Sancho knows that, if he can impress, score goals, make chances for teammates and terrorise opposing fullbacks in the coming weeks, then he can force his way back into Southgate’s plans. England’s attacking ranks aren’t exactly set in stone just yet.

Can Sancho force his way back into England's plans?

Can Sancho force his way back into England’s plans?
Manchester United via Getty Imag)

You can’t say the same for David de Gea however.

The 31-year-old may have 45 Spain caps to his name but he’s now been stuck in the international wilderness for the better part of two years, unloved by Luis Enrique. His last appearance for La Roja came in October 2020 and he hasn’t been called up since November last year.

Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon is now the undisputed No.1 ahead of the World Cup with two Premier League keepers – with only two caps between them – preferred by the ex-Barcelona boss: Brighton ’s Roberto Sanchez and Brentford’s David Raya.

That has meant that, at a time when questions over his style of goalkeeping and how they may contrast with the desires of Ten Hag are being asked, De Gea has been getting down to work at Carrington. There remain suggestions that, after 11 years at the club and 495 appearances, De Gea is yesterday’s man and that Ten Hag will look to bring in a replacement, potentially at the end of the season for his £350k-a-week stopper.

Before the Premier League’s hiatus, De Gea has already sought to disprove such theories and that he has the ability to thrive in the Ten Hag era. He can’t change his compatriot’s mind, but the work to ensure he’s in the Dutchman’s long-term plans is well underway.

At 31, can David de Gea adapt his style to that of his manager, Erik ten Hag?

At 31, can David de Gea adapt his style to that of his manager, Erik ten Hag?
Manchester United via Getty Imag)

One player who did feature for his country during the international break was Luke Shaw, getting some much needed minutes with England.

Unlike De Gea and Sancho, Shaw has lost his place at United – to Tyrell Malacia – with his appearance in the Three Lions 3-3 draw with Germany on Monday night his first start since United’s dire 4-0 defeat at Brentford. He has played just 20 minutes for United since.

But speaking after his appearance at Wembley – in which he scored England’s first as they fought back from 2-0 down – Shaw revealed that he has no qualms about losing his place at club level, having struggled early in the campaign.

He also divulged that he has held a number of “chats” with Ten Hag about his situation, and was honest in his assessment that he needs to get back to his best.

Luke Shaw got crucial minutes under his belt during the international break

Luke Shaw got crucial minutes under his belt during the international break
Manchester United via Getty Imag)

“I think Ten Hag, the boss, he knows my qualities, he knows what I’m capable of and we’ve had chats,” he told talkSPORT. “It’s understandable that, and I even agree, the start of the season wasn’t good enough and he had to make changes and I fully accept that, I accepted it.

“The only thing I can do is train hard and wait for my opportunities, whether that’s in the cup games or the Premier League, whatever I play in I just have to be ready and play at the standard I should be at.”

When United meet Manchester City at the Etihad on Sunday, he looks set to be handed a watching brief once more, with Malacia set to start once again.

But Shaw wants his starting berth back.

De Gea wants to prove Luis Enrique wrong and Sancho knows that, if he can let his talent shine in the coming weeks, a place in England’s World Cup squad could still be his.

All three have, at one point or another in recent weeks, found themselves unwanted. Now all are looking to continue their respective fight backs.

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