Jadon Sancho fired Manchester United to a 1-0 win at Leicester on Thursday as the England forward showed he still has a role to play despite the big-money signing of Brazil winger Antony.
Sancho netted with a clinical finish in the first half to seal United’s third successive Premier League victory.
It was a well-timed contribution from Sancho, coming just hours after United officially confirmed their £82 million ($94 million) swoop for Ajax’s Antony.
United manager Erik ten Hag worked with Antony in Amsterdam and the 22-year-old looks likely to be a regular in the right wing role currently occupied by Sancho.
Sancho did his best to remind Ten Hag of his qualities with his second goal of the season.
United moved up to fifth and sit just one point adrift of the top four as Ten Hag begins to make an impact after a nightmare start to his reign.
Beaten by Brighton and Brentford in the first two matches of the Ten Hag era, United have climbed off the bottom of the table without looking completely convincing.
But Ten Hag was satisfied with his team’s latest display of spirit and determination, the qualities he demanded after the 4-0 loss at Brentford.
“It is another step forward so I am happy with that. We showed good team spirit. We had 11 players on pitch who fought for each other and scored a lovely team goal,” Ten Hag said.
“When we have 11 players on the pitch who can defend and attack together, and we have energy, you see what you can achieve.
“Still, there is improvements to make but that is normal at this stage of the season. With better decisions we should have scored a second goal. We have to be more ruthless.”
United were unchanged from the side that won 1-0 at Southampton last weekend, meaning Cristiano Ronaldo was reduced to a second half substitute appearance for a third successive game.
Ronaldo had hoped to leave United before the transfer window shut on Thursday, but the Portugal star was unable to find a suitor willing to meet the club’s asking price and able to offer him Champions League football.
Ten Hag says he is “on the same page” with the 37-year-old striker about his role, but Antony’s arrival could further limit Ronaldo’s playing time.
The Brazilian did not sign in time to feature against the Foxes, leaving Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga to form United’s attacking trio.
“We need a good squad and we needed numbers. There are a lot of games to cover. Once we have Cristiano and Casemiro getting fitter it will get better still,” Ten Hag said.
“We will see with Anthony after training whether he is ready for Sunday (against Arsenal).”
Sancho makes his point
In the 23rd minute, Bruno Fernandes and Rashford combined to carve Leicester open and Sancho took a touch around Leicester keeper Danny Ward before slotting home.
Leicester are bottom after taking one point from their first five games, their worst start since 1994.
Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers has bemoaned the unstable atmosphere created by players seeking to leave.
One of those unsettled stars, French defender Wesley Fofana, joined Chelsea just before the transfer window closed.
Youri Tielemans’ immediate future was also resolved as the Leicester midfielder, linked with Arsenal and Newcastle, featured in Rodgers’ starting line-up.
“It is a poor start, that is the reality for us. We have circumstances that haven’t helped us, that is for sure,” Rodgers said.
“We won’t hide. The window closing hopefully brings that focus and mentality back as one. We just lack quality and we weren’t able to do anything about that in the window.”
Leicester pushed hard for an equaliser but Harvey Barnes curled narrowly wide and James Maddison’s free-kick forced a superb one-handed save from David De Gea.