What’s the endgame for sorry-not-sorry Jadon Sancho in Manchester United stand-off?

Ian Watson
Jadon Sancho in action for Manchester United.
Jadon Sancho has not played for Manchester United since August.

Jadon Sancho chose violence and he’s not sorry – the Manchester United winger needs to be ready for the consequences if his next move isn’t a swift and public apology to Erik ten Hag…

 

For Jadon Sancho, the choice now is clear: fit in, or f**k off. The fact the Manchester United winger was training with the kids again this morning while his team-mates were preparing to face Brighton is a heavy hint that he favours the second option – or at least doesn’t like the first.

So now what, Jadon?

A full international break has been and gone since Sancho hit ‘post’ on a statement that he, and whichever of his acolytes penned it for him, knew would be incendiary. He can’t claim it was issued in haste, and the fact it remained pinned to the top of his X account for more than a week suggests he feels no remorse or need to excuse it.

READ MORE: Jadon Sancho remains in exile as Man Utd confirm Ten Hag rebel will continue to train alone

That was the impression offered to Erik ten Hag when the pair met after more than a week to cool off. If the United boss had simmered down after being labelled a liar, he was back to the boil after Sancho refused to apologise.

A half-arsed olive branch was offered in the removal of Sancho’s post which, understandably, did not go far enough for the manager. By way of ‘resolution’, Ten Hag reportedly expects a public apology. Which is hardly unreasonable.

But sorry seems to be the hardest word for Sancho, who is standing his ground. Alone and exposed, across Carrington’s open pitches, out of Ten Hag’s sight.

The United boss, weirdly, has been criticised for his handling of the whole sorry saga. Ten Hag is still in the midst of trying to change the culture around the club, an unenviable task, mammoth in scale, that requires laser focus and a firm hand. Ten Hag has both. United’s problems before him stemmed from the fact there were no consequences of stepping out of line. With Sancho, there appears to be no fear of the consequences.

Jadon Sancho whispers in Erik ten Hag's ear during a match.

If there was, he would have got his act together before now. A prodigious talent he may well be, and by many reports a nice lad, but his career so far is flickered with flakiness. Timekeeping seems to be a recurring problem which, let’s be honest, isn’t the problem at all. It’s the manifestation of a lack of respect for his manager and his team-mates.

At Dortmund, the assistant manager was tasked with fetching Sancho for team meetings. Still he found ample opportunity to be tardy. At United under Ten Hag, Sancho was given his own schedule, his own timezone, an hour ahead of the rest of the squad, just to get him to turn up on time. It really should not be that f***ing hard.

A scapegoat? Sancho is lucky to have been tolerated for this long. It’s hardly as though he has been worth the hassle for Ten Hag or any of the Dutchman’s predecessors. Since signing for £73million more than three years ago, Sancho has had a hand in 18 goals, failing so far to achieve anything resembling consistency.

Having arrived as a right winger, Lord knows what he is now. He lacks the speed and unpredictability to unsettle full-backs, which feels like something that should have been picked up on before United wrote a massive cheque for Borussia Dortmund. Ten Hag has tried Sancho through the centre in a no.10 role but, again, he struggles to penetrate defences that are already well set. Sancho thrives in counter-attacking situations and when defences are already out of shape. He won’t be the one to prompt such a breakdown.

Does Sancho have a grasp on that reality? Having heard little other than how brilliant he is ever since he was a 17-year-old in Dortmund’s first-team, is there any acknowledgement that there is lots still to work on to become the player United hoped and expected he would be? Seemingly not since sluggishness in training has been a theme at both of his clubs and during his international career, which has never seemed so far in the rearview mirror as it is now.

Maybe Sancho simply lacks the necessary drive, determination and motivation to achieve that potential. That’s fine. Not every player is wired in such a way or possesses the mentality that elite coaches crave. If he is content with his lot and happy with as far as his raw talent has already taken him, good luck to the lad.

As long as he doesn’t have high hopes for his next move, which he must have in mind since the consequences of challenging Ten Hag’s authority are already clear. Someone will take a punt on Sancho. There is always a coach out there who feels they can be the one to unlock a talent. But Chelsea reportedly shied away from signing Sancho in the summer, and buyers will beware of his patterns of behaviour and inconsistency. If those continue, his fortunes won’t change just because the setting has.

Plenty have escaped the Old Trafford dumpster fire in recent seasons believing the club, not them, to be the problem. They weren’t completely wrong, but few have really thrived elsewhere. Sancho should be mindful of that before he torches the last shreds of Ten Hag’s patience.

Read more: Ten Hag faces the biggest challenge of his career: turning this cursed Manchester United ship around