Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag will not rush Jadon Sancho back, even if it means overcoming his own impatience.
Sancho started the season well, but has not appeared for United since the 1-1 draw with Chelsea on October 22.
He was an unused substitute eight days later against West Ham and was left out of United’s World Cup training camp in Spain.
Ten Hag raised the lid somewhat in mid-December when he revealed Sancho had been away due to “circumstances with fitness and mood”.
Sancho spent time working to an individual training programme in the Netherlands with coaches known to Ten Hag during the Premier League’s hiatus, and he has since been back at United, training alongside fringe players.
It was early December when Ten Hag initially said he could not “give a prognosis of when” Sancho would return, and while the England international is apparently making progress, the manager is still unable to provide a definitive answer.
“I would like to have Jadon back as soon as possible,” Ten Hag told reporters ahead of Friday’s FA Cup third-round clash with Everton. “I will do everything that’s in my power, but some processes you can’t force and this is one of them.
“So, I have also to show patience, although I don’t have the patience because we have a lack of opportunities in the frontline, players who are available and capable to contribute in the Premier League – not only the Premier League but the highest standard of top football.
“Jadon is one – when he is fit. He will contribute and then we have an extra option and so we will have more chance of winning a lot of games.
“We have some hurdles to take, but I think he’s [going] in a good direction. In this moment he is not fit enough, no. I said physical, but physical is also the connection with mental.
“He is now making good progress on the physical part and that will help him. I hope he can return quickly, but I can’t say how long it will be.”
Ten Hag was asked to explain how a Premier League footballer can suddenly become absent for such a prolonged period despite not being injured.
With Sancho’s absence seemingly related to his mental wellbeing rather than physical health, Ten Hag pointed out the importance of treating the individual’s needs as opposed to using a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Many top athletes, in football and also in other sports, sometimes it’s good to go away from the place where you are at daily to get a new vibe and a new experience,” he added.
“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.
“I think for everyone, you need an individual approach. We thought that, in cooperation with Jadon, it was the best choice.”