Antony is one of three forwards Manchester United want to ease burden on Cristiano Ronaldo – Samuel Luckhurst

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On Monday, two forwards Manchester United invested more than £ 130million in are due to be beckoned through the Carrington barriers, both of them cut from their national team squads.

Jadon Sancho has struggled to endear himself to Gareth Southgate in past camps and Anthony Martial’s last tournament appearance for France was in the 2016 European Championship. France and England have a surfeit of stellar attackers that ensures there are headline absences whenever there is a squad announcement. Marcus Rashford, like Sancho, has not played for England since the Euro 2020 final.

Sancho, 22, is one of the handful of players Ralf Rangnick had in mind when he opined there was a core group of top players in the United squad. Sancho improved on Rangnick’s watch and played his best football for United under the German, only the purple patch lasted less than two months.

Also read: – United’s stance on Martial’s future

Historically, United have a predilection for individualists and that has been to the detriment during these fallow years. Bruno Fernandes was potent with stands sparse but rumbled with turnstiles reopened and standards raised and he is not aligned with the profile of midfielders Erik ten Hag is targeting. Sancho, earmarked by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as United’s priority target for the right wing, made his first start on the left and excelled there for Rangnick.

Sancho was another unwitting victim of Solskjaer’s soft management, his start date pushed back to August 9 – the first week of the season – so there was no pre-season. Low on confidence after the gutting denouement to the Euros, he was dropped after three starts. Ten Hag should be grateful to Southgate for extending Sancho’s England exile.

A familial death in January and the two-week break provided Sancho the time to reset and he hit the ground running in his first fixture back against Middlesbrough in February. With only one more England camp before the World Cup in November, Sancho has incentives aplenty to recapture form.

United’s attack is more lopsided than Mrs Wilberforce’s house in The Ladykillers . Four forwards have been at their best on the left, Alejandro Garnacho predominantly played there for the junior teams and Hannibal Mejbri started there on his full debut at Crystal Palace last month.

Garnacho is contracted to United until 2025 but discussions are already underway about an improved deal to reflect his sharp development since joining from Atletico Madrid in October 2020. Mejbri is expected to embark on his first pre-season tour and Anthony Elanga, despite his senior status , is hardly proven and categorized as potential.

The three available options on the right have two starts in the Premier League between them and Amad is the only one to have that privilege. Tahith Chong has not played for the first-team since August 2020 and Facundo Pellistri has never appeared for United 20 months on from signing.

It is reflective of Chong and Pellistri’s standings they scored in the pre-season friendly win at Derby in July when United were devoid of their European Championship and Copa America participants. United triggered the one-year extension in Chong’s contract and nobody seriously believes he is another Dutchman to benefit from his compatriot’s appointment.

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Pellistri scored at Derby 11 months ago
Pellistri scored at Derby 11 months ago

Pellistri’s brief United career was typified that day at Pride Park when he expressed his wish to stay at United for the upcoming campaign. Twenty yards along the touchline, Solskjaer simultaneously suggested another loan would be advisable.

Pellistri underwhelmed across two loan spells for Alaves and Amad never recovered from yielding in the Old Firm derby on his second start for Rangers. United invested £ 46m in the pair on the same deadline day in 2020 and it would be premature to write both internationals off. Cote d’Ivoire have not qualified for the World Cup but Uruguay have and Pellistri has the greater incentive to push for another loan.

Figures at the club do not regard Pellistri and Amad among Ten Hag’s prime attacking options. Martial is still in the conversation only as he has to be; nobody is knocking at the door for a flaky forward whose stock has plummeted in the last two seasons (nine club goals for a No.9). Under Ed Woodward’s regime, United were at pains to protect Martial but he has lost that privilege.

United are braced for the possibility of Martial being marooned at the club and Ten Hag could be railroaded into fashioning a (nother) opportunity for the Frenchman. Whatever it is, it is unlikely to be fulfilling enough for Martial to have a seat reserved on a flight to Qatar.

Sources close to Marcus Rashford have suggested he could play through the middle in pre-season as United’s preference is to sign a flexible forward (ideally Ajax’s Antony) rather than a striker. Rashford has longed to play at the apex of the attack and, as he approaches 25, is still young enough to reinvent himself but Cristiano Ronaldo stands in his way and Rashford scored once as a starter last season.

Club sources are more optimistic about a Rashford resurgence than Martial recovering from two chastening seasons. Both of their futures are uncertain but a Rashford departure has never seemed realistic and Raheem Sterling, represented by the same agency, is the England attacker likelier to be on the move.

United do not have to sell to buy up front as four attack-minded players’ contracts expire next week, their farewells already bade. Ten Hag has the personnel to field three separate front threes, so United may limit themselves to one attacking incoming unless the phone starts ringing.

Martial might have to drive his own move.

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