Man United FC

Ten Hag: Sancho was not in right fitness state | ‘Reception will motivate him’

Man United manager Erik ten Hag hopes Jadon Sancho's Old Trafford reception will inspire him to return to his best.

Jadon Sancho made his first appearance for Manchester United since October during the Carabao Cup semi-final second-leg win against Nottingham Forest; Erik ten Hag: “He’s just begun again”

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag hopes Jadon Sancho can regain his best form after making his first appearance since October in Wednesday night’s 2-0 Carabao Cup semi-final win over Nottingham Forest.

United will meet Newcastle in the final on February 26 after defeating Forest 2-0 in the semi-final second leg at Old Trafford to win the tie 5-0 on aggregate.

The foundations were established with a 3-0 victory at the City Ground in the first leg last week, and second-half goals from Anthony Martial and Fred sealed their trip to the capital.

Another plus for United was the return of Sancho, who made his first appearance for the club since October after a long hiatus.

Sancho was “not in the right status or fitness state” after doing an individual fitness program in the Netherlands rather than traveling to Spain for the squad’s winter camp.

He returned to rousing applause from the Old Trafford crowd, and Ten Hag is eager to get the 22-year-old back to his best.

“Most important players (must) enjoy football because it gives them energy and motivates them to act and perform,” Ten Hag added.

“He has very high standards, and he has enormous potential to contribute to our squad. As the team improves, we are playing more in the opponent’s half, and his abilities are coming to the fore [then]. He can react to them more and get more touches on the ball, providing him with the finest platform to excel.

“I think the reaction from his followers was fantastic, and it will give him even more motivation to keep acting the way he is now.

“He has just begun again, he is back in Carrington, and hopefully he can maintain that and really contribute to the club because he is essential to us when he is in form.”

“He has already demonstrated his quality this season, for example, a beautiful goal against Liverpool, a goal against Leicester, he had some really excellent games, Spurs, he has already demonstrated his amazing capabilities.

“I expect that when you are always available and play frequently with the guys we have currently in the midfield and front line, our attacking play will develop and create more chances, and it will be a process that players will enjoy and be more driven to work together.”

It is United’s first domestic final since losing the FA Cup in 2018, and it puts them one win away from ending a six-year trophy drought that dates back to Jose Mourinho’s Europa League triumph in 2017.

Ten Hag is aware that the job is not finished, adding: “It’s nice to make it to the final, but it’s winning that will be difficult, as the opponent will be formidable.

“The attention is now on the Premier League, which will resume in two days. In the first place, it must provide inspiration because we want to bring the cup to the supporters.

“But at the moment, I’m not looking ahead; we’re focused on other things; we have Crystal Palace and then two games against Leeds, and they’re going to be terrific games, derby games that we’re looking forward to.”

On transfer deadline day, Ten Hag signed midfielder Marcel Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich.

According to the Dutchman: “We are really satisfied with that transfer because we needed it after Donny van de Beek pulled out [for the remainder of the season] and now Christian Eriksen is out for a longer period of time [up to early May] and Scott McTominay is out for a short period of time.

“As a result, we are short on midfielders, and I am familiar with the player from [previous teams] Salzburg and, in particular, Leipzig. Great attitude and the perfect age: I am confident that this move will greatly push him.”

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