Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag says he will be patient reintroducing Jadon Sancho to his team as “footballers are not robots”.
Sancho has struggled for form since his £73m move to United from Borussia Dortmund in July 2021.
The England winger has not featured for United since the 1-1 Premier League draw at Chelsea on 22 October.
“There are some processes you can’t force and this is one of them,” said Ten Hag.
United have won nine of their 10 matches in all competitions in the 22-year-old’s absence, with Sancho currently following an individual training programme devised to get him back to the level required to play in the Premier League.
It is only 18 months since the Londoner was part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad that reached the final of Euro 2020, and he impressed during United’s pre-season trip to Thailand and Australia.
Ten Hag describes Sancho as “not fit”.
However, that does not tell the entire story as there is a mental aspect too, which the United boss noticed as Sancho’s form and confidence dipped around the September international break despite his goal ratio being significantly better this term than in his first season at the club.
“Football players aren’t robots. No-one is the same and you need an individual approach. We thought that, in co-operation with Jadon, this was the best choice,” Ten Hag added.
Sancho recently spent some time in the Netherlands with coaches Ten Hag knows well to try and find the spark that will get his United career back on track.
The United boss says Sancho is now “making progress” and is “ready for the next step” although no timescale has been placed on his return to first-team duties.
With United playing Everton in the FA Cup on Friday before looking ahead to Tuesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final with League One Charlton, the usual glut of January fixtures means squad depth will be tested at Old Trafford.
But Ten Hag wants to make sure Sancho’s recovery is right rather than rushed.
“We have some hurdles to take but I think he’s (going) in a good direction,” added Ten Hag. “I would be really happy the moment he returns to the squad for team training. That’s the next step.”