Dwight Yorke has claimed Manchester United did not need to sign Jadon Sancho due to the emergence of Mason Greenwood at the time.

Sancho joined from Borussia Dortmund in a big-money move in the last transfer window, though the winger's arrival was somewhat overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational return to Old Trafford.

The 21-year-old has struggled for form since the transfer and was dropped by England after disappointing in his initial showings for United.

However, Sancho – who has accumulated 744 minutes across all competitions for his new club – finally found the net against Villarreal on Tuesday after previously going 14 appearances and 10 shots without finding the net.

His Champions League strike was his first goal for the club, having failed to score before United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer parted ways with the Red Devils sat eighth in the league.

But Yorke expressed his confusion as to why United signed Sancho when they have Greenwood, who stormed onto the scene in 2019-20 before he became only the second teenager to find the net in the opening three matches of a Premier League season this term.

"I think people forget these are young men that come in with huge expectations," Yorke, who finished as United's top league goal scorer in 1998-99, told Stats Perform. 

"He hasn't had the best of campaigns with England. We've seen that missed penalty, that can have a knock-on effect as well. All those little things, things that young players have to deal with. 

"I am a fan; I just probably think it would have been a little bit too early for us to bring him in. 

"I think we didn't need Sancho at the point in time with the emergence of Greenwood. I just think that was a position that we didn't really need to go for."

United are reportedly edging closer to appointing Ralf Rangnick on an interim basis, with a permanent solution set to be found at the end of the season.

The 63-year-old will no doubt know about Sancho, who is the only player from Europe's top five leagues to have scored 10 goals or more and had at least 15 assists across all competitions in each of the previous three seasons.

Despite questioning whether his arrival was necessary, Yorke added how exciting Sancho's potential can be for United, who travel to Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday.

"However, you still cannot underestimate the talent the boy does possess," he continued.

"He's definitely one for the future. Again, we have an English product and we want to make sure that we continue to pick up the English players. 

"But sometimes that can get a little bit overwhelming at times and people get ahead of themselves a little bit. But there’s no question in my mind that he's a very talented young man and will be a great asset to the football club going forward."

Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick hailed Cristiano Ronaldo after the Red Devils superstar made more Champions League history in the 2-0 victory over Villarreal.

Ronaldo became the first player to score in the first five matches of a European Cup/Champions League campaign for an English team as United qualified for the last 16 courtesy of Tuesday's Group F win at Villarreal.

In the first match of the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, with interim boss Carrick on the sidelines following the Norwegian's sacking, Ronaldo broke the deadlock 12 minutes from the end for his 799th career goal before team-mate Jadon Sancho sealed the victory at the death away from home.

Ronaldo's strike against Villarreal was the third time he has scored the match-winning goal in the final 15 minutes of a Champions League match this season – the most a single player has ever done so in a single season in the competition (excluding extra time).

The 36-year-old has also scored six goals for United in this season's Champions League; only Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004-05 (eight) has ever scored more for an English club in a single group phase of the competition.

Carrick – who became the first English manager to win his first match in charge of United (excluding second spells) since 1931 – heaped praise on Ronaldo post-game, telling reporters: "There's not much more I can really say about Cristiano that hasn't been said over quite a number of years.

"It's what he does in the big games and the big moments when you need a goal and you need that little bit of something he's there to deliver. And he's got such a kind of cold, calculated mentality that he's so calm when he gets that and he doesn't snatch at the chances. That's what he's been gifted with. I say gifted with, he's worked very hard at being as good as he is, so delighted to obviously have him and not surprised at all that he managed to come up with a goal for us tonight.

"He played mixed positions. We started him off on the left to put Anthony [Martial] through the middle. And just as the flexibility we have as a forward line, the chopping and changing positions at times, but I thought whatever position they ended up, they defended responsibly and disciplined.

"That [helps] us look a much stronger team and helped an awful lot. In the end, you get your rewards. Like I said before, for Jadon, it's the same thing. If you work well as a team and you put the full package together, you end up getting your rewards and we did tonight."

It has been a turbulent time for United, who had only won two of their previous eight games heading into the matchday five fixture.

Sancho – a big-money signing from Borussia Dortmund at the start of the season – scored his first ever United goal in what was his 15th appearance and from his 11th attempted shot in all competitions.

Carrick added: "I think he'll be better off tonight after playing how he played tonight. The goal for everyone is the obvious one, I think. And for Jadon himself, it'll give him a massive boost.

"It was a big goal for him. But I thought his performance overall, I know how much Jadon likes the ball at his feet and he wants it where he's happiest. You see the smile on his face when he's got the ball on his feet and he's trying to make things happen. But actually, the most pleasant thing for me is the effort and the application that he put on and off the ball. 

"And at times he wasn't seeing a lot of the ball, but he was doing a job and he was playing a big part in the team's performance. In the end, that's what happens. You get your rewards and you kind of get what you deserve and you earn it. So I was delighted for Jadon, kind of epitomised the team's performance, really of how much we had to dig in. Grit and determination at certain times.

"But actually how much we enjoyed the ball as well at other times. So I was delighted for Jadon. It's obviously up to Jadon out of what happens next and how he kicks on because he's got all the talent in the world and he'll have all our support, that's for sure."

Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick was thrilled for Jadon Sancho after the winger ended his long wait for a goal in the win over Villarreal.

In their first match since the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils secured a 2-0 victory in Spain on Tuesday that sealed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock after Fred had applied pressure following a goal kick, and Sancho made certain of the win with an emphatic finish at the end of a flowing counter-attack in the 90th minute.

Sancho had previously gone 14 appearances and 10 shots without finding the net for United since his move from Borussia Dortmund in the transfer window.

The result meant Carrick became the first English manager to win his first game in charge of the club since Walter Crickmer back in 1931, and the former midfielder was delighted with the manner in which his players battled for victory.

"In some ways, it was the best way to win for me," he told BT Sport. "We had to show some character, we had to dig in, had to fight.

"The game looked at times like it was drifting away from us, after half-time, and we got back together again and the subs made a massive impact.

"That's all I could hope for: the boys gave everything.

"Fred's done fantastic. He won that ball back, which we want him to, we look for that. When Ronaldo gets that chance, he puts it away.

"To finish it off with Jadon was brilliant. I know how much Jadon loves the ball at his feet and trying to make things happen, it's where he's happiest, but I thought the other side of the game, he put in a real effort defensively when we needed it. It was a big night for him."

Villarreal enjoyed the better of the chances in the first hour and David de Gea had to make a handful of saves, including a brilliant one-handed stop to deny Manu Trigueros.

Carrick felt it was always likely his side would have to adopt a more cautious approach given the game was just three days on from the chastening 4-1 Premier League loss to Watford that spelled the end of Solskjaer's time in charge.

"We came here to win the game. I believed we would, I believed we were ready for it," Carrick said.

"It wasn't an easy game, by the way. It was a tough game, they're a good team, and for those who don't watch them that much and don't see it, they're a good team, they make you work.

"I thought the boys had to dig in at times and show a little bit of everything, so I was delighted with the way it ended up.

"Let's be honest: I don't think we could have come out and hoped to play pretty football from the word go. When you've suffered results-wise and you're not in a great vein of form individually and as a team, it's not easy to come out and let everything click."

It remains unclear how long Carrick will take charge of the first team, with United exploring interim appointments until the end of the season as well as longer-term targets that reportedly include Mauricio Pochettino.

Carrick was keen to pay tribute to Solskjaer after a troubled few days at Old Trafford.

"I have enjoyed it, I must admit. I enjoyed the whole thing. It's not been an easy couple of days at the club," he added.

"That result almost feels like it was for Ole. I can't get away from that. But we had a job to do, and when I was there, and things needed to be taken care of, I was happy to do it. Thankfully, it all went to plan in the end."

Manchester United qualified for the Champions League last 16 by beating Villarreal 2-0 in the first match of the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era on Tuesday.

With Solskjaer having departed as manager after the 4-1 embarrassment at Watford last weekend, Michael Carrick was tasked with leading the Red Devils in their fifth Champions League group game of the season.

After a largely uneventful 77 minutes at Estadio de la Ceramica, in which Manu Trigueros and Jadon Sancho had the best of the chances, Cristiano Ronaldo lofted in his 799th senior career goal to put his side in front.

Sancho, who failed to score under Solskjaer, made certain of United's place in the knockouts with an emphatic finish at the end of a flowing counter-attack.

United fans sang boisterously in support of Solskjaer and Carrick as kick-off was delayed due to an apparent problem with the referee's communication system.

Scott McTominay headed into the side-netting but the best of the early chances fell to the home side, David de Gea saving from Moi Gomez and Yeremi Pino hitting the wrong side of the net from a loose ball.

De Gea saved superbly one-handed to tip away Trigueros' first-time shot before Ronaldo's first sight of goal saw him head straight at Geronimo Rulli from an Alex Telles cross.

Neither side seemed eager to force the issue but De Gea was called upon to make another brilliant save from Trigueros after a loose ball deflected to him in the United box.

Rulli saved well from Sancho as United began to look the more likely to find a winner, but the Villarreal keeper turned villain when his lazy pass was pounced upon by Fred, allowing Ronaldo to spin and lob the ball into the unguarded net.

Fred was again instrumental for the second, winning back possession to trigger a swift break involving Ronaldo, McTominay and Rashford, with Sancho applying a powerful finish.

 

Marcus Rashford and Jude Bellingham have been recalled to Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, but Jadon Sancho and his Manchester United team-mate Jesse Lingard miss out.

England require just four points to qualify for Qatar 2022 from the visit of Albania on Friday November 12 and their final qualifier away to San Marino three days later.

It is Rashford's first call-up since his missed penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy as he has only recently recovered from shoulder surgery, while Bellingham comes back into the squad after being left out for previous games against Andorra and Hungary.

A lack of game time at club level appears to have cost Sancho and Lingard their places in the squad as the United duo miss out.

Speaking after making the squad announcement, Southgate said: "With Mason [Greenwood] I discussed the situation last time, with Jesse and Jadon they just aren't playing a lot of football compared to the other players in their positions.

"I know people will say I'm inconsistent, but I don't think I am. If you're playing regularly for your club you've got a much better chance of us assessing your level compared to the rest of the group."

Elsewhere, Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James and Kalvin Phillips also come back into the 25-man squad, while Kieran Trippier, Fikayo Tomori and Ollie Watkins are left out.

England squad in full:

Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolves), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City); Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Tammy Abraham (Roma), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists Jadon Sancho can prove himself as a "world-class talent" at Manchester United, despite a slow start to his Old Trafford career.

England international Sancho has been restricted to three Premier League starts since joining United from Borussia Dortmund in an €85million (£73m) deal ahead of this season.

The 21-year-old featured in all but one of the Red Devils' 12 games this term, starting half of those, but is so far without a goal or an assist for his new club.

That is in stark contrast to Sancho's form across his four seasons as part of Dortmund's first team when scoring 50 goals and assisting 57 more across 137 appearances.

Sancho has gone from averaging 2.59 chances per 90 minutes with the German side to 1.91 for United, leading to inevitable suggestions that he may be a flop signing.

But former Dortmund boss head coach Klopp has no doubt the Manchester City academy product will come good if given time to adapt on his return to English football.

"Jadon Sancho is a world-class talent, definitely," Klopp said ahead of Sunday's huge showdown between Liverpool and United.

"He has all the things you need to become really one of the best players in the world in the future, that's how it is. But he's still very young.

"At Dortmund they were full of praise about him and rightly so. I saw a lot of games of him playing outstandingly well.

"Some people lose patience a little bit quickly – and don't forget the options United have in this position."

Sancho will be pushing for a starting spot when United host Liverpool but faces competition from the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

In the Premier League era, only Wayne Rooney (six goals) has scored more times for United against Liverpool than Rashford, who has four goals in eight appearances.

Greenwood has impressed with four goals in eight league games this season, meanwhile, and Klopp was full of praise for the youngster.

"Wow! What a talent he is," the German said. "I think he has maybe pushed Jadon out of position. 

"Mason can play in the centre, but there is no space any more, so maybe they will share. It's a problem that you want to have as a manager, 100 per cent."

Gareth Southgate was not surprised by Phil Foden's outstanding England display against Andorra, while he backed Jadon Sancho to recover his best form at Manchester United.

Foden came into the international break having dazzled on the left wing for Manchester City in last week's 2-2 draw with Liverpool, scoring one goal and having a hand in the other.

The 21-year-old was not on the scoresheet in Saturday's 5-0 World Cup qualifying win, but he controlled the game from the centre of midfield.

Having played the pass that cut Andorra open for Ben Chilwell's opener, Foden got an assist for Bukayo Saka's second. The last England duo aged 21 or under to combine for a World Cup qualifying goal had been Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen against Germany in 2001.

Tammy Abraham, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Grealish added goals after half-time, but Foden remained the star.

Although there was one wild, wayward shot, he created three chances and completed 94.7 per cent of his 76 passes, including 93.1 per cent of 58 in the Andorra half.

England have been accused of lacking control in the centre of the pitch in their biggest games, so manager Southgate was intrigued by Foden's display – even if he expected the City man would thrive.

"The quality we know," Southgate told a news conference. "For us, it's really interesting the possibilities with him in terms of his positioning moving forward.

"Today was a perfect game, because the whole team had no need for defending, so you're only analysing one part of the game against a certain level of opponent.

"Nevertheless, to see the passes and to have the quality to hit the passes he did is apparent for everybody.

"Not just him, but as one or two others in that midfield get stronger, I think it's exciting to see how we might evolve as a team in certain matches and how that balance and creativity might continue to progress.

"I'm not surprised that his performance was the standout tonight. We half-expected it when we named the team, really.

"I think [identifying his best position] is difficult, because frankly he's one of those players that is effective across that front line, if you play him seven, 11, 10, eight.

"A traditional 4-3-3 formation, with a six, eight, 10, [he would be] the 10 within that but with the capability to drop lower and to build the play at times as he did tonight.

"I think part of that is as he gets stronger, and part of that is the balance of the type of player who might play as the other eight, as well, and their qualities.

"Look, it's fabulously exciting, isn't it, when you're trying to break down a defence as you are tonight and you've got a player who can see the passes that he sees and hit them and execute them in the way that he did.

"Towards the end of the game, there were some lovely bits of combination – Foden, Mount, Grealish, Saka – the type of play that our players are capable of producing is really exciting."

While Foden has two goals and two assists in six club games this term on one side of Manchester, new United signing Sancho has yet to register one of either in nine outings.

He got two assists on Saturday, though, including teeing up Chilwell after Foden's pass.

Southgate said: "It was not easy for a winger in the game tonight, because quite often you're receiving the ball with two, sometimes three defenders really close.

"You've got to pick the right moments to set the ball off and the right moments to back yourself to maybe take one or two of those players out. I thought he did that exceptionally well.

"It was important that he got the assist, because you've also got to have that productivity, and the right pass or the right cross at the end of those packages of play.

"When I've spoken to him this week, we shouldn't be surprised that for a young player to have such a big change in his life – new league, new club, different style of play, different training regime, back living in Manchester, moving house, everything that's involved in that – that's a lot to take in.

"It's going to need time, but he showed a lot of the qualities he has, and I know that will come with the club as well."

Jesse Lingard knows he needs regular club football as the Manchester United man bids to nail down a place in the England squad.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has used Lingard sparingly this season, despite his remarkable performances on loan at West Ham last term.

Lingard declined to speak about the prospect of a new contract at Old Trafford, with his present deal due to expire at the end of this season.

But the attacking midfielder, whose 30th birthday will fall during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, is aware his England prospects could suffer if he is not playing regularly for his club.

After narrowly missing out on a place in the Euro 2020 squad, Lingard does not want to see another major tournament pass him by.

United are stocked with attacking talent and that is holding back Lingard's prospects of being a fixture in Solskjaer's starting XI.

"The World Cup's a long way away but obviously you need regular football," Lingard said in an England news conference.

"I was so close to going to the Euros. It's a big factor; if you're playing over 20-25 games, you're knocking on the door.

"So I think it does play a big part. At the moment I'm not doing any harm and if I keep performing well and doing well you never know what might happen.

"I'll keep confident in myself and when I get time on the pitch I'll carry on doing what I'm doing."

He has made only one start for Solskjaer in 2021-22, featuring from the first minute against West Ham in an EFL Cup third-round defeat.

That is the only game where he has played for longer than 24 minutes, but Lingard has strong evidence to call on when pointing to the overall level of his performances.

In 136 minutes of United action this season, spread across six games, he has scored twice and created three chances for others, one of which resulted in a goal.

He is outperforming his expected goals (xG) score of 0.59, which reflects the quality of chances, yet he is struggling to get ahead of the likes of Anthony Martial, whose data is not as impressive at this early stage of the campaign (three starts, 245 minutes, one goal, no assists, no chances created).

Lingard could face Andorra on Saturday, having scored twice against the minnows at Wembley last month, and for now at least he is firmly in favour with England boss Gareth Southgate.

Jadon Sancho may also feature against Andorra despite Southgate last week admitting the winger only scraped into the squad.

Sancho has played 436 minutes for United since arriving from Borussia Dortmund, and he has yet to score or assist on a goal, making a slow start at Old Trafford.

Lingard is convinced the 21-year-old will come good and show the form that made him a superstar of the Bundesliga and sealed a place in Southgate's Euro 2020 squad.

"We all know Jadon is a world-class player, and he's one of the best young talents in the world at the moment," Lingard said.

"At a big club like United there is always going to be pressure. I feel like he's slowly adapting now. And you can see glimpses of that in the previous games that he's played, and now we can see that in training week in week out.

"There's no doubt that he will succeed at United, I've got full confidence in that."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has dismissed Gareth Southgate's assessment of Jadon Sancho's form for Manchester United, insisting the winger was "electric" against Villarreal as he continues to settle in at Old Trafford.

Sancho has yet to either score a goal or provide an assist since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund, with his arrival somewhat overshadowed by the stunning return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the club.

The 21-year-old’s sedate start to life with United has not cost him his place in the England squad, though national boss Southgate admitted his form perhaps did not warrant selection for the upcoming fixtures against Andorra and Hungary.

"Does he deserve to be in on these performances over the last few weeks? Well, probably not," Southgate said on Thursday, though he did make clear England believe the player can reach a "high level".

Solskjaer, however, pointed to Sancho’s performance in the 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday as an example of what he can produce, both for club and country.

"Was that interview done before Wednesday night?" Solskjaer said when Southgate's comments were raised during a media conference ahead of United’s home game against Everton in the Premier League.

"Jadon was exceptional, he was electric. The crowd loved him and I think he felt that connection.

"He was direct, positive, he went past the full-back numerous times. Yes, he's not scored yet, but I thought, 'that's Jadon and we're going to see lots of that'."

Sancho has created five chances in open play in his outings so far, while his dribble success rate in those appearances stands at 28.57 per cent.

He played 75 minutes against Villarreal, completing 90.7 per cent of his passes and managing one shot from his 59 touches. United grabbed a late winner after his departure from the pitch, Ronaldo scoring in the fifth additional minute.

Mason Greenwood also played in that game but will not be involved for England as the Three Lions continue their World Cup qualifying campaign, Southgate leaving him out due to concerns over the young forward’s heavy workload.

Solskjaer has backed the decision as Greenwood has already made eight appearances in the campaign, scoring three times.

"Gareth is understanding that the boy is only 20 - he turned 20 today (Friday). He's going to be a top player for England and for Manchester United, but he has to be managed in the right way,” Solskjaer said.

"It gives us a chance to work on his fitness but also to give him a rest because he has been playing in many, many games at a high intensity."

England boss Gareth Southgate admitted Jadon Sancho has been called up for international duty even though he does not deserve a place based on form.

The 21-year-old winger has struggled since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United, failing to register a goal or an assist in eight appearances across all competitions.

His numbers are in stark contrast to what he produced for Dortmund last season, for whom he managed 16 goals and 18 assists in 38 games across the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal.

Sancho was also limited to just one start and two substitute appearances as England reached the final of Euro 2020 before losing to Italy on penalties, with United's new signing also missing one of the spot-kicks after being brought on.

Southgate has still named Sancho in his 23-man England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary, however, and wants to reassure the youngster as he goes through a difficult patch.

"Does he deserve to be in [the England squad] on these performances over the last few weeks? Well, probably not," Southgate said.

"But I think we feel we have invested in Jadon over a period of time, we believe he can get to a high level.

"I would like some time with him to chat with him and help that process that's going on at Manchester United as well and I think for him to feel that we have belief in him at this point is a good message."

Southgate also claimed it was only natural for Sancho to require time to adjust after moving from the German top flight to the Premier League, suggesting that it would be more difficult for him to hit the same numbers in England.

"The Bundesliga is totally different, Dortmund is a big club but Manchester United is one of the biggest in the world," Southgate continued. 

"There's some adaptation to that, there's a definite adaptation to the league. You're not going to get the goals and assists numbers, anywhere near, in our league, that you are in the Bundesliga."

Before joining up with England, Sancho will hope to kick-start his season with a goal if he features when United face Everton on October 2, in their final game before the international break.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Jadon Sancho to come good after a slow start with the club.

The 21-year-old has made five appearances for Untied since signing from Borussia Dortmund for around £73million after a high-profile transfer pursuit that lasted over a year.

England international Sancho arrived to huge fanfare, though he is yet to register a goal or assist going into Sunday's Premier League trip to West Ham.

A frustrating start for Sancho continued when he was sacrificed in the first half of Tuesday's Champions League loss to Young Boys, the winger taken off as part of a reshuffle when Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off.

Solskjaer, though, insists nothing has changed in his evaluation of Sancho, who he feels can be a "top forward" for United over more than a decade.

"He is learning all the time," Solskjaer told reporters before the West Ham clash.

"As I said in training as well, he is learning our methods, he is learning the Premier League and of course, he knows the Champions League already from being at Dortmund.

"He is a young boy, he is only 21 and he will improve. 

"We signed him as we see a top forward for 10, 12, 15 years and I have not changed my mind on that.

"He is so clean on the ball and is enthusiastic to learn and that is such a big thing when you come to Manchester United.

"You are always going to get a chance and you play with some of the best players in the world, you are getting some fantastic coaching with the coaches I have got too."

United will do battle with their former manager David Moyes when they take on West Ham, with Sancho not a certainty to start given Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the options in attacking positions.

Since his sacking in 2014, Moyes has failed to win any of his seven games against United in all competitions, losing five of those.

However, in-form Ronaldo has a mixed record against West Ham.

The Portugal star was involved in six goals in his last four league appearances against them in his first spell in England (five goals, one assist), though he also suffered three top-flight defeats to the Hammers.

Only against Chelsea (four) has Ronaldo suffered more Premier League losses than he has against West Ham.

Jadon Sancho's arrival at Manchester United was initially heralded as something of a game changer for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, their right-wing problems set to be a thing of the past with the England international seemingly guaranteeing goals and creativity. 

But, as it did with most other stories in football, Cristiano Ronaldo's signing took the spotlight away and it seems everyone has been focused on the Portugal talisman. 

That might actually be a helpful thing for Sancho, given his start to life at United has been about as explosive as a candle. He is there, in the background, but unless you look at him it is very easy to forget his existence. 

Sancho thus far appears to have largely escaped full-scale criticism, with Ronaldo's goalscoring return and then United's embarrassing loss to Young Boys somewhat eclipsing the winger's muted introduction. 

That is not to say his ineffectiveness has gone unnoticed, certainly not by supporters. But should they be concerned even this early in his United career? 

'Every player has slow periods'

Digging into Sancho's form after just four Premier League appearances probably seems a little premature. Maybe it is, but his slow start is certainly a talking point from United's perspective. 

There could be any number of reasons for Sancho taking a little longer to get up to speed than hoped, such as a shortened pre-season after Euro 2020, adapting to a new system and team-mates, or even a loss of confidence following his spot-kick woes in the European Championship final. 

But it is worth pointing out Sancho had a similarly tricky start to 2020-21, something his Borussia Dortmund coach at the time partly put down to United's interest. 

"Every player has slow periods. There was a lot of talk about Jadon during the summer – something like that can be a factor," Lucien Favre said in October last year. "No player is consistently in top form for an entire year, that's impossible. You have to accept that." 

Sancho's patchy form continued all the way up to Germany's mid-season break – at that point, he had not scored in 11 Bundesliga games and only laid on three assists. It was a far cry from his breakout season the previous campaign when he netted 17 and set up another 16 – that was the standard he set. 

Though that in itself should have been seen as unmatchable given how much he outperformed his expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA). In total, he was involved in 14.9 more goals than the average player would have ordinarily expected given the quality of the chances, which was the most across the top five European leagues (Ciro Immobile was second with 13.5). 

It was surely unsustainable form and that was what his struggles in the first half of 2020-21 lent further credence to. But how does his form back then compare to his first steps in the Premier League? 

Lacking cohesion in new surroundings

It must be highlighted again that Sancho's first four Premier League matches represent a small sample size, so you obviously have to be a little cautious when it comes to drawing conclusions – after all, he could potentially score a hat-trick against West Ham and his record of three goals from five games would look pretty handy. 

Nevertheless, Sancho's early-season numbers certainly reflect the idea he is not offering a great deal to United. In fact, in terms of productivity, he's significantly down even on that difficult first few months of 2020-21. 

For starters, he has managed just two shots in 184 minutes on the pitch, which is obviously poor for someone brought in to be an attacking threat, particularly given he averaged 2.4 every 90 minutes pre-Christmas last season. Though there is a positive spin – some players may take hopeful snapshots in an attempt to dig themselves out of a rut, but Sancho at least is not panicking in that sense. 

His stunted productivity does extend to creativity, however. Creating one chance from open play every 90 minutes, he's down on both the pre- (1.6) and post-Christmas (2.5) periods from 2020-21, and the combined quality of the openings he has crafted have not been especially threatening with an average xA of 0.11 per 90 minutes. 

Even when deemed to be struggling last season, Sancho's xA value per key pass was almost three times as high (0.32). Of course, Sancho was in surroundings that were familiar to him and linking with players whose habits and characteristics he was more comfortable with, and there's a lot to be said for the value of cohesion, especially when things aren't going your way. 

That is presumably something Sancho will have to work on even harder at United, given he has limited experience of playing with his new team-mates. 

Lacking confidence, playing it safe

Building a natural familiarity can only be even more of a challenge when you appear devoid of confidence. We can only speculate as to why that may be the case, but it is a reasonable assumption to make that he is lacking in self-belief. 

His ordeal at Euro 2020 – when he played just 96 minutes before being specifically sent on in the last seconds of extra time in the final and missed his spot-kick – and the subsequent racist abuse he suffered on social media must have had an impact on his mental state. It would be shocking if it had not, though who is to say if that is the sole cause? 

What we can say is that Sancho's apparent dip in confidence seems to have manifested in a greater reluctance to take players on. He almost looks sheepish when faced up by defenders – it should be the other way round – and as such he is attempting significantly fewer dribbles. 

He tried to beat his man 5.7 times per 90 minutes in the first part of 2020-21, and that rose to 6.9 after the mid-season break – he is attempting 3.9 dribbles and completing 1.5 each game in the Premier League for United. 

He is touching the ball far less often (64.1 touches per 90 minutes compared to 84.8 in the first half of last season), though 64 touches hardly suggests he is being ignored by team-mates. 

But there is always a chance that United players may end up looking to others if Sancho is not deemed enough of a threat – after all, his average of 4.9 shot-ending sequence involvements per game is 1.6 fewer than he managed across all of last season. 

This in itself is interesting because it suggests that, although Sancho was not as much of a creator or finisher in the first part of 2020-21, his influence in the build-up remained constant over the two periods of the campaign. 

Linked to that is the frequency with which he played passes (including crosses) into the box, averaging 9.4 each game pre-Christmas and 9.5 after the mid-season break. But during these early weeks with United, he is producing just 3.4 such passes every 90 minutes. 

Obviously, Sancho's reasoning for this could quite possibly be that he has not seen team-mates in enough space, given most teams United face will have fairly packed defences. But fans would argue he is the sort of player who should be unlocking deep backlines either through his creativity or ability on the ball, and so far he has largely been unable to. 

Nevertheless, it is still far too early for anyone to start suggesting Sancho is enduring something of a crisis. He should be afforded patience and time to build meaningful on-pitch relationships with others in the United squad. 

But when it comes to attaining some confidence, Sancho might just need to take the odd leap of faith – he is playing it safe and that is not what United bought him for. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit out at the "farcical" situation that could prevent Brazil international Fred from playing for Manchester United this weekend.

United blocked Fred from joining up with his national side for their triple-leader of September World Cup qualifiers due to Brazil being on the United Kingdom's travel red list amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That would mean players having to isolate in a hotel for a minimum of 10 days upon their return, ruling them out for at least three matches.

However, the ​Brazilian Football Confederation has asked FIFA to enforce a law that would block players not released from representing their countries for at least five days.

Should that be the case, Fred will not be available for selection to face Newcastle United on Saturday, although United are still waiting on official confirmation.

Solskjaer has now joined Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, who are also set to be without some key players over the coming days, in calling on FIFA to show some common sense.

"It is a lose, lose, lose situation for everyone, national teams, players, clubs," he said at a pre-match news conference on Friday. "It has been a farce. 

"The players want to play. We know the situation we find ourselves in. We've had to try and find a way, but all the decisions have gone against the players.

"I'm disappointed with the whole thing. We need to prepare without Fred but fingers crossed some sense can come into it and we can use him."

Fred has started all three games for United so far this season and is second only to defender Harry Maguire (152) for successful passes (133), while only Aaron Wan-Bissaka (five) has intercepted the ball more times than the Brazilian (four).

While the 28-year-old's availability remains uncertain, Solskjaer confirmed returning forward Cristiano Ronaldo is in line for his second debut this weekend.

In further good news for United, who have seven points from the first nine on offer, Jadon Sancho is also available despite withdrawing from the England squad with a knock.

"Jadon has come back in with a minor problem but he's trained the last couple of days," Solskjaer said. 

"He's disappointed he couldn't play for England but determined to be fit and he’s available. So that's a positive. 

"The international break, we didn't get anyone injured.

"Luke [Shaw], Harry [Maguire] and Victor [Lindelof] played late on Wednesday night so they've not had a lot of recovery but they will be available, I think."

United have lost just one of their last 36 home league games against Newcastle (W26 D9), with that defeat coming in December 2013 when David Moyes was in charge.

The Red Devils have scored at least once in each of their last 14 Premier League home games, meanwhile, netting 40 times in total (2.9 per game).

Manchester United have a "massive" opportunity to win multiple titles this season following the return of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Red Devils winger Jesper Olsen.

Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford after re-joining United from Serie A giants Juventus before the transfer window closed last week – the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football signing a two-year contract with the option for a third in Manchester.

The 36-year-old won one of his five Ballon d'Or trophies with United, scoring 118 goals in 292 games across his first spell in Manchester as he clinched three Premier League titles and the Champions League – a competition he has since won four more times – before moving to Real Madrid in 2009.

Formerly a dazzling winger but now a penalty-box poacher, Ronaldo has netted 674 times across 895 club games in all competitions, averaging a goal every 108 minutes.

Between his entrance on the Premier League stage and his final appearance in May 2009, Frank Lampard (131) and Thierry Henry (124) were the only two to have a hand in more English top-flight goals than Ronaldo (118) – Henry (92) the only one to outscore Ronaldo's 84.

After his 12-year absence, Ronaldo – who scored the first of his 48 club hat-tricks against Newcastle United in 2008 – is in line to make his debut against the Magpies in the Premier League on Saturday, and former United winger Olsen is excited about the Portuguese's second coming.

"I think it's fantastic. It's a great way to finish his career I suppose. He is 36 now," Olsen, who won the FA Cup during his four years at United in the 1980s, told Stats Perform.

"I was doing a lot of work in Manchester at the time when he arrived, we looked after Wayne Rooney – our sports management company – I can only see the whole thing being positive.

"The stature of the guy and also the players around him getting to play with him and learn from him. Exciting for the Premier League, absolutely."

Not since 2012-13 – Alex Ferguson's final season in charge – have United won the Premier League, while the Red Devils have not celebrated silverware since claiming the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield in 2016-17.

United, who finished second to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League in 2020-21, surprisingly lost to Villarreal in last season's Europa League final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have won two of their opening three league fixtures this season, ahead of Newcastle's visit to the Theatre of Dreams.

Ronaldo's last Premier League appearance was in May 2009 against Arsenal – if he faces Newcastle, it will set a new record for the longest gap between appearances in the competition's history (12 years, 118 days).

His last Premier League goal came 12 years and 124 days ago, against City in May 2009. Assuming he scores again for the Red Devils, only one player has ever had a longer gap between Premier League goals – Matt Jackson (13 years and 187 days between May 1993 and November 2006).

"It [Ronaldo's arrival] certainly hasn't made United weaker as a team. It isn't easy to win anything, we know that," Olsen continued. "We talk about Tottenham who haven't won anything for a long time. The Premier League is hard.

"The way United played last season, they got some rhythm and continuation in terms of winning matches. I think they have the spine and now the belief as well. The players seem to have settled in.

"The mixture of younger players, too. The likes of [Paul] Pogba and [Bruno] Fernandes performing well, [Edinson] Cavani coming on to score goals, [Mason] Greenwood as well. I think it's a really good mix. We know there's a lot of different competitions. It's a long season. It can only help them with that squad they have."

With United also bringing in top transfer target Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane via Real Madrid, pressure is on manager Solskjaer to deliver.

"Every year, if you play for United, you're expected to win titles – players and managers. Obviously, he came to United with a bit of experience but it's a massive club and a huge task," ex-Denmark international Olsen added.

"…It has to click but they definitely have a massive chance to not win one title but possibly a few over the next 12 months.

"It takes time but if you look as a player, and I don't think at any stage or age, if you look around Europe, the bigger clubs you can join, United surely stands as one of those at the top.

"They have certainly been on reliant on a way of playing that suits the team. They will have a lot of ball now with the way they play. It's a lot more settled. They've done really well in terms of signings. It can take some time to settle at United, but after a long time in the wilderness I suppose, it's settled down.

"Solskjaer is very calm and very structured. He knows what he's doing with his management team. It's a very exciting season. Obviously, it all depends on the games and if you win of course."

While fans and pundits have been buoyed by United's transfer business in 2021-22, one recent signing has been left in the wilderness.

Donny Van de Beek joined from Ajax last season amid much fanfare, however the Netherlands international is yet to make an appearance this term, having made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.

"It doesn't make sense because we all know what he did for Ajax, but there's obviously something that the way Solskjaer wants to play doesn't fit in," Olsen, who also played for Dutch giants Ajax, said. "There's no doubt that you don't become a bad player overnight.

"Maybe he is getting used to a different style and system. Sometimes it takes a while but of course there would be people watching because you don't want to go two-three years without playing when you're such an exciting player who has done so much already."

Jadon Sancho has withdrawn from England's squad after sustaining a minor knock. 

England thrashed Hungary 4-0 in Budapest on Thursday as they made it four wins from four games in World Cup qualifying. 

Sancho, who left Borussia Dortmund to join Manchester United ahead of the 2021-22 season, was not involved at the Puskas Arena after suffering an injury in training. 

The winger will now not feature in the upcoming matches against Andorra and Poland either.

England confirmed on Saturday that the 21-year-old had returned to his club but is expected to be fit for the Red Devils' clash with Newcastle United on September 11. 

That game at Old Trafford will likely see Cristiano Ronaldo make his second debut for United, following the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's dramatic return. 

Gareth Southgate, who sees his side face Andorra on Sunday and Poland on Wednesday, was already without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Everton striker having pulled out due to a thigh injury. 

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