Jadon Sancho made his first start of the tournament in the quarter-final

Credit: AFP

On the opening weekend of the Euros it seemed unlikely Jadon Sancho would have the life-changing last few days he has experienced.

He had to deal with the shock of being left out of the matchday squad against Croatia and was in the stands when the rest of his England team-mates did a lap of honour and waved to their families in the stands after the victory.

With his move to Manchester United yet to be thrashed out, it was a time of uncertainty for the forward. All that changed this week, with Borussia Dortmund agreeing a fee for him to move to Old Trafford then getting his first tournament start and putting himself in contention for a semi-final place.

At the Stadio Olimpico there was enough to suggest that United have spent £72.9million wisely, with his running giving Ukraine problems stopping him within the laws of the game.

Sancho has been used to seeing a yellow wall at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion and he had a similar structure in front of him wearing Ukraine shirts. He needed all his guile to find room and make an impact on the game but he has given Gareth Southgate a real dilemma ahead of facing Denmark.

Aside from six minutes against Czech Republic, this was Sancho’s first real action of the Euros and Southgate explained his decision was based on what he had seen on the training pitches of St George’s Park in the last week.

It also helped that he was a right-footer playing on his natural flank. Bukayo Saka, whose knock opened up a place in the starting line-up, cut inside to his favoured left foot in the last two victories. Phil Foden’s progress at Manchester City has also been on the left flank and his best chances at the Euros have been from shifting inside.

Before this start in Rome his routine on matchday had been warming up on the touchline with Marcus Rashford. At half-time the United pair would dodge the Wembley sprinklers before doing keep-ups together. Players have talked about being ready whenever needed during the tournament and Southgate felt the time was right, perhaps the weight of a year-long transfer saga being lifted last week.

Sancho kept the Ukraine defenders off balance with his dribbling ability


The England manager wanted Sancho running around the outside of Vitaliy Mykolenko and getting crosses over but the ability to take the ball either side of his opponent made him difficult to shackle.

His best early moment was when he carried the ball into a No 10 position and teed up Luke Shaw to set up another dangerous chance for England. Sancho would commit defenders and take them out of the game, allowing others to move into space.

As the match progressed he tried running around the outside, with his relationship combining well with Kyle Walker at right-back. With his first run towards the penalty area he laid off for Mason Mount, who had half a penalty shout turned down.

Sancho could have scored himself when he turned sharply after collecting Shaw’s cross, then seeing his drive saved by Heorhiy Bushchan. He had been using his hands to demand the ball from his new United team-mate. The flag went up for offside but Var would have deemed them onside.

By half-time, Sancho had switched wings and had some joy running at Serhiy Sydorchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko, getting hauled back after his trickery saw him break free and get hauled back.

Sancho’s time-keeping and discipline has been questioned at Dortmund under Lucien Favre but this was him in his most comfortable environment.

He has made brave moves during his career, moving from London up to Manchester City as a youth player, then making sure he got his move to Dortmund when his path to the first team looked blocked.

He talked about going under the radar heading into the tournament. His statistics in the last two years match most in the England squad but he was less visible in Bundesliga. That will all change now, and he could also have a Euro semi-final and final to make sure he is noticed.