The final international break is upon us and that means time for reflection for Erik ten Hag and his coaching staff ahead of a gruelling final two months of the season.
Manchester United have played every single game available to them this season and after winning the Carabao Cup, they are still competing on three fronts.
A win over Fulham earlier on Sunday secured their passage into the semi-finals of the FA Cup and they will face Sevilla in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Jadon Sancho has endured a tough second season at United but it was his initiative and moment of magic that sparked a turnaround against Fulham.
Sancho danced around Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno, feigned a shot to lose one defender before firing his shot towards goal. The effort was blocked by Willian on the goal line but after a VAR review, the Brazilian winger was dismissed for stopping a clear goal with his hand.
Aleksandr Mitrovic and manager Marco Silva were dismissed in the aftermath but Sancho’s individual brilliance was the root of what turned out to be a key moment.
Sancho is far from the first name on Erik ten Hag’s teamsheet but with two weeks of no action, he has now been handed the perfect opportunity to force himself into the manager’s thinking.
The 22-year-old was not named in England’s squad for their upcoming fixtures and will thus remain at Carrington and train with the other players.
That will allow Ten Hag to work on specifics with Sancho and fuel his asset for an unprecedented run-in. The prospect of staying in Manchester is made even more attractive for Sancho due to his main competitors leaving to represent their nations.
Marcus Rashford, Facundo Pellistri and Antony have all been called up by their countries and Alejandro Garnacho is unavailable due to injury.
Any specific tactical work at Carrington will be centred around Sancho in some scenarios and it’s paramount that he captures this moment.
As things stand, Sancho is behind all of the players mentioned in the pecking order and that’s the unfortunate reality he finds himself in less than two years after completing his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho is in desperate need of a string of promising performances or at least one game where he is completely dominant – the type of outing which earned him the move in the first place.
His preferred position is currently occupied by Marcus Rashford and he’s not going to displace Rashford anytime soon but Ten Hag showed flexibility in recent weeks, with his talisman instead playing centrally.
Wout Weghorst, who has played every single game since joining the club, has dropped into a deeper role as a result, with Bruno Fernandes playing on the right or even deeper in midfield.
The end of this season could determine whether Sancho has a future at United. Should he be deemed surplus to requirements, United could look to move him on to finance other moves this summer. If they don’t, they risk a dramatic drop in value.