It’s been a long time coming for Jadon Sancho, but he finally has his first goal for Manchester United.
Having moved to Old Trafford for £73m in July, leaving Borussia Dortmund after four impressive seasons in the Bundesliga, it has taken Sancho four months to open his account for his new club. While his struggles have reflected those of the team as a whole during the twilight of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure, it’s been a disappointing start for a player heralded as one of the most exciting talents of his generation.
With the Solskjaer era drawing to a close after United’s 4-1 defeat to Watford at the weekend, Sancho has the chance to make a fresh start at the club. He gave a glimpse of his true potential against Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica on Tuesday evening, lashing in off the underside of the crossbar to make it 2-0 to the visitors in the 90th minute.
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Following on from Cristiano Ronaldo’s dinked opener, that gave Michael Carrick his first win as interim manager. While Solskjaer’s former assistant was delighted with the team’s all-round performance, he reserved high praise for Sancho – and his work both on and off the ball – after the match.
“I was so pleased for Jadon," he told club media. “I thought he worked his socks off tonight, I thought he gave everything tonight.
At times, it wasn’t always with the ball and I know how much he enjoys the ball at his feet and trying to make things happen. He showed a different side tonight and to get his goal at the end pretty much capped it off perfectly for him and for us.
Asked how important the goal was for Sancho in his post-match press conference, Carrick suggested that the England international has his destiny in his own hands. “Jadon’s goal will give him a massive boost but I thought it was his performance overall,” he said.
“At times he wasn’t getting the ball but, in the end, you get what you deserve and I was delighted for him to score.
That epitomises the team’s performance – the determination to dig in at times. It is up to him how he kicks on now, what happens next. He has all the talent in the world.
When it came to the team’s performance, Carrick was especially pleased with United’s aggressive pressing game. Ronaldo’s goal came after Fred had forced a mistake from Etienne Capoue high up the pitch, while Sancho’s strike came at the end of a lightning-fast counter-attack initiated by an interception in United’s half.

Michael Carrick congratulates Sancho after the final whistle

Image credit: Getty Images

“Yeah, of course, it did impress me, the pressing one,” Carrick said of the first goal. “If you look back over time, we have pressed as a team. Especially on goal kicks and when the goalkeeper has got the ball, we do try to press.
“Sometimes it hasn’t worked and we haven’t been good enough to do it, but certainly the intention is to do that. When we have changed our approach, certainly over the last few years, we have tried to implement that the best we can.
“Fred is one of the best around at doing it and I thought he played a massive part in the first goal. Cristiano finishes it off but Fred has done terrific.
“The intercepting for the second goal is what we’ve got in the team," he went on. “To be able to hit teams on the break and to have those little moments has always been in the DNA of this club and that’s still within the players we have got.
I’m delighted with both goals. I’m not going to take any credit for that, it’s not about my ideas that one, it’s about the lads working hard together and pulling it off. The efforts, endeavours and application tonight... when they put that together, we’re a good team.
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