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Erik ten Hag: Man Utd boss says Jadon Sancho's comeback is 'in his own hands' after scoring equaliser vs Leeds

Jadon Sancho came off bench to score equaliser in 2-2 home draw against Leeds; Sancho scored his first United goal since September in his first Premier League appearance since October; United boss Erik ten Hag on his comeback: "I think it's in his own hands. So if he wants, he can do [it]"

Manchester United's Jadon Sancho celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
Image: Jadon Sancho celebrates his equaliser against Leeds after returning to the Man Utd team

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag says "magnificent" Jadon Sancho is "on the way back" after he scored on his Premier League return, but insists his future is "in his own hands".

Sancho came off the bench to score his first Premier League goal since September and rescue a 2-2 home draw against Leeds on Wednesday night.

The 22-year-old has only just returned to Ten Hag's side after recovering from physical and mental issues that saw him complete an individual fitness programme in the Netherlands rather than travel to the squad's winter camp in Spain.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s draw against Leeds United in the Premier League

Sancho followed up his first appearance since October in last week's Carabao Cup win over Nottingham Forest with a vital 70th-minute equaliser against Leeds in the Premier League.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Ten Hag said of Sancho's goal: "I'm very happy. He's on the way back. We know he is a magnificent football player.

"He can definitely for our team be a big impact. Tonight he had, but we know he can be a consistent impact. He has to work very hard, we all do, and in this moment he is in a good mood.

"I think it will strengthen him, motivate him to even give more, then you'll get more. It's a brilliant footballer, and that second goal I really enjoyed it, and especially for him."

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Erik ten Hag was left disappointed with his side's opening minutes in the first half and second half against Leeds

Asked in the post-match press conference what the England international needs to do to make sure he does not go backwards, Ten Hag replied: "I think it's in his own hands. So if he wants, he can do [it] and this team is great to play in and will give you joy.

"I really enjoy seeing him playing the way he did, with so much confidence, so much belief, really direct. It was great to see him play in this attack."

Sancho, who joined United in July 2021 for £73m from Borussia Dortmund, has now scored three goals in 11 Premier League appearances this season, equalling his goal tally from the 2021-22 campaign (3 in 29 games).

"He's in the right direction and I hope he can keep this momentum going," Ten Hag added. "I'm sure it'll strengthen him and motivate him to do even more.

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"As you see, he's a brilliant footballer and if he invests and he is in the right levels then he can perform outstandingly.

"I think we now have a team that can dictate games more in the opponent's half - he likes that. He can play in tight areas and he can make the difference. The second goal shows it but also when he came on last week we saw that as well."

Asked about Sancho's time away from the first team, Ten Hag responded: "It was a difficult period but he fight himself out [it]. He needs credit for that and I'm pleased, I'm proud he did it.

"I will back him, the coaches are backing him, the team is backing him and supporting him in this process. But finally he has to do it by himself.

"You can see when he's in a good level he is an outstanding football player, he's brilliant. He can make the difference and I hope he can stay in this mood and contribute to this team and score a lot of goals and create chances and assists."

Back Pages Tonight: Sancho gives Man Utd another option | Chance missed for United

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Miguel Delaney from The Independent and Mark Ogden of ESPN discuss how Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has managed the return of Jadon Sancho after his equaliser against Leeds

ESPN senior writer Mark Ogden on Sky Sports News:

"He [Ten Hag] made a big decision back in November that Sancho needed some time out and the space to get fit, both physically and mentally… he's let him go away and work in Holland with some coaches that are away from United, and it's worked.

"He's given the player time and space to get back to his best. We're at the start of that - he's not back to his best by any means - but he's back in the team, back playing again and scored a big goal against Leeds. It was a big goal because it got them a point, although they've probably dropped two points and it's one win in four now.

"They're still on the fringes of the title race because they've not taken their chances when they've had them. They drew against Crystal Palace, now against Leeds, they lost at Arsenal so I think we can start saying United aren't in the title race, unless Manchester City and Arsenal continue to slip up.

"But it was a big goal for Sancho, I think everybody was pleased to see him score because he's had a tough time recently on and off the pitch.

"I don't think Marcus Rashford enjoys playing in the No 9 role, it's not him. He wants to be on the left-hand side, cutting in.

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Leeds caretaker manager Michael Skubala says his side were unlucky not to have grabbed the win

"It's a tough role being a centre forward, it's a very specific role and that's why they bought Weghorst in because Rashford doesn't play that role particularly well. That's why Man United are looking to bring in a Harry Kane or a Victor Osimhen in the summer, they are looking for a proper centre forward because they don't have one, apart from Weghorst, who is only a short-term measure.

"The bonus of Sancho is it gives Man United another option because the big summer signing in Antony hasn't done much… in terms of the No 9, Man United are patching up until they get to the summer and try and get a proper one in."

The Independent's chief football writer Miguel Delaney on Sky Sports News:

"It was a real opportunity after the results at the weekend with both the top two slipping up but they couldn't quite get it over. Some of that is related to the absences they've had, which has allowed Sancho back into the team.

"But they did salvage something from the Leeds game and it emphasises again how measured Ten Hag has been in a lot of his decision making so fa With Sancho, he's given the player the space to find his form again, find the right mindset again and in this immediate game back, he's had an impact."

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