Erik ten Hag admits Manchester United need Jadon Sancho back in action as soon as possible, but won’t force the England star to rush his recovery. United already need to sign a striker in the January transfer window after ripping up Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract, and Ten Hag acknowledged that Sancho would be a valuable addition to a depleted strike-force.

The United boss revealed that the 22-year-old winger is making progress, but insisted that he will not push Sancho to come back before he is ready. ‘We have some hurdles to take, but I think he’s in a good direction,’ said Ten Hag. ‘I will be really happy the moment he returns to the squad for team training. That’s the next step.

Sancho has returned to the club’s Carrington base to follow an individual fitness programme, after several weeks working alone in Holland because Ten Hag said he wasn’t in the right physical and mental shape to train with the rest of the squad.

‘The physical is also connected with the mental. He is now making good progress on the physical part and it will help him. I think  let’s say, I hope  he can return quickly, but I can’t say how long that will be. ‘I would like him back as soon as possible. I will do everything in my power, but you can’t force some processes and this is one of them.

‘So I have to show patience, although I don’t have the patience because you are right, we have a lack of opportunities in the front line. When he is fit, Jadon is one who can contribute and then we’ll have an extra option. ‘He was in the Netherlands, but the process could also have been in England. I think many top athletes, sometimes it’s good to go away from the place where you are every day to get a new vibe and experience.

‘We need three experienced goalkeepers,’ said the Dutchman. ‘You don’t want a situation that hopefully you play for trophies and you have to put in a young keeper. It can kill your season.’ ‘People have a different approach and this can give you the right push to get back on track. Football players aren’t robots. No-one is the same. For everyone, you need an individual approach. We thought, in co-operation with Jadon, it was the best choice.’

Ten Hag said that United’s medical team are still assessing Donny van de Beek’s right knee injury, and stressed the importance of signing goalkeeper Jack Butland from Crystal Palace until the end of the season.

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