With Manchester United pair Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford left out of Gareth Southgate’s England squad, the Red Devils could be in pole position to benefit from the break, particularly given their encouraging starts to the season.
Rashford was unavailable for selection:
“In regards to @England every player wants to represent there country and I’m no different! Unfortunately I’m not ready yet as I’ve picked up an untimely injury.”
Good luck to the boys later today @ManUtd ⚽️💪🏾
In regards to @England every player wants to represent there country and I’m no different! Unfortunately I’m not ready yet as I’ve picked up an untimely injury. 🏴
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) September 15, 2022
While Sancho was, perhaps surprisingly, left out:
“It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get the call-up, but I have to just keep focussing on myself and keep on working hard, week in and week out, that’s what I’ll do.”
Jadon Sancho: "Yeah, 100% [make England squad], that is one of the targets. It's unfortunate that I didn't get the call-up, but I have to just keep focussing on myself and keep on working hard, week in and week out, that's what I'll do." [mutv]
— utdreport (@utdreport) September 15, 2022
Both have started in all six of United’s Premier League matches so far this season and for Sancho those games have come on either wing.
With two goals domestically and another in the Europa League, the former Borussia Dortmund winger looks set to enjoy a productive campaign.
Sancho is just one goal shy of his league record last term and has certainly shown a clinical streak, having scored his two from just four shots.
While without an assist so far, he is also creating 1.1 chances per 90 which suggests that his creativity will see direct rewards sooner rather than later.
Even aside from that, his ability to draw opposition defenders towards him has already borne fruit in United’s early games. He has consistently been deployed in a role that makes use of his reliability in tight areas to open up space on the pitch for his teammates – often his opposite winger.
As for Rashford, three goals and two assists serve as an indicator that the player who often carried the Red Devils during the 2019/2020 season may not be so far away after all.
Near enough a goal or assist every game is obviously not a sustainable rate, but the underlying numbers suggest that Rashford could enjoy a high-output campaign under the new boss.
He has scored his three goals from an xG of 2.1, while his two assists have come from an xA of 1.2.
It would be simplistic to merely extrapolate from there, but the early signs suggest that the academy graduate has every chance of registering double figures for goals and a healthy number of assists in this Premier League campaign.
Of course, much of that will depend on form, fitness and who plays where.
With the £85m acquisition on Antony, the Englishman’s route to a left-wing starting spot has been impeded by Sancho’s usage on that flank. Rashford has been able to provide an option up front though, and that versatility is likely to serve him well throughout the campaign.
He certainly seems more capable than the version of Cristiano Ronaldo we are currently witnessing, but Anthony Martial is expected to be Ten Hag’s first choice for the striker position.
Depending on the Frenchman’s fitness, Rashford could find himself rotated out of the ‘ideal’ eleven at Old Trafford, but that would more than likely be a good thing rather than a bad one.
Rashford has previously shown an appetite for affecting matches from the bench.
Many will remember his hattrick against RB Leipzig as one example, but the forward also remains the scorer of more 90th-minute winners in the Premier League than any Manchester United player in the competition’s history – all from the bench.
Marcus Rashford has scored more 90th-minute winners in the Premier League than any other Man Utd player in the competition's history:
90+2' vs Hull
90+2' vs Bournemouth
90+3' vs Wolves
90+3' vs West Ham
Clutch 🔥🔴 pic.twitter.com/RLyMGLdnDT
— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) January 22, 2022
All of that means that Rashford will likely continue to be a key attacking weapon for his manager regardless of whether or not he starts.
With both Rashford and Sancho having had encouraging starts to the season, the added time spent at Carrington has plenty good to build upon.