Sancho motivated by Messi in PSG attack: I need to step up my game!

By Sports Desk August 13, 2021

Jadon Sancho would be "buzzing" to take on Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League but knows he must "step up” his game to reach that same level.

Sancho has joined Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund in one of the biggest deals of the year, although it was dwarfed by Messi's transfer.

After 778 appearances, 672 goals and 265 assists for Barcelona, Messi became a free agent when his only senior club could no longer fit his contract within strict salary restrictions.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner subsequently signed for PSG to form a frightening forward line alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

The trio scored 66 goals in LaLiga and Ligue 1 between them last season, even with Neymar only featuring 18 times, and the French side appear clear favourites for the Champions League.

United winger Sancho certainly recognises the threat but is ready to rise to the challenge, having had 19 goal involvements in 26 Bundesliga outings in 2020-21.

"I use [the Messi move] as a motivation," he told Rio Ferdinand in a BT Sport interview. "PSG are a great side, got great players like Mbappe, Neymar, Messi.

"As a young player, I'm looking at that: woah, that means I need to step up my game, try to show the world that I'm not at that level yet but I can get to that level.

"It's good competition. Every young player should thrive for big games like that.

"If we did ever face them in the Champions League, I would be buzzing, I'd be ready to go. They've got a great side, definitely."

United have their own superstars, though, and Sancho picked out Bruno Fernandes for praise as the Portugal international aims to build on a Premier League campaign that brought 18 goals and 12 assists – his 30 goal involvements seven clear of the next-best midfielder in Europe's top five leagues.

"Bruno, we were on the same team [in training] and linked up really well," Sancho said. "Me and him love winning.

"I'm glad we have the same mindset because it's needed, especially in a big team like this. If you want to win things, you have to learn how to win in training and in matches.

"I think the whole team is a great squad. Speaking to Luke [Shaw] and H [Harry Maguire] and Marcus [Rashford] at the Euros, they were just telling me there's a great bunch of lads.

"I watched some of the games last season and the attack is very good. To be a part of that now is going to be kind of crazy.

"I've seen what Bruno is doing, what Marcus is doing, [Mason] Greenwood, [Edinson] Cavani... to add more goals and assists to that is going to be exciting."

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  • Marcus Rashford hits back at criticism over his commitment to Manchester United Marcus Rashford hits back at criticism over his commitment to Manchester United

    Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has hit back following criticism concerning his commitment to the club.

    The 26-year-old England international has faced questions this season for issues both on and off the field.

    Last month Rashford was under the spotlight after reportedly being seen in a Belfast nightclub before missing the following day’s training due to illness and he subsequently missed United’s FA Cup tie against Newport.

    However, in a piece for the Players’ Tribune website, Rashford has responded to his critics, asking them to show “a bit more humanity”.

    “When I make a mistake, I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say that I need to do better,” he wrote.

    “But if you ever question my commitment to Man United, that’s when I have to speak up. It’s like somebody questioning my entire identity, and everything I stand for as a man.

    “I grew up here. I have played for this club since I was a boy. My family turned down life-changing money when I was a kid so I could wear this badge.

    “I can take any criticism. I can take any headline. From podcasts, social media and the papers. I can take it.

    “But if you start questioning my commitment to this club and my love for football and bringing my family into it, then I’d simply ask you to have a bit more humanity.”

    Rashford came under scrutiny in October last year after attending a nightclub party following United’s 3-0 home derby defeat to Manchester City.

    He has also faced criticism for performances on the pitch having scored only five goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season.

    The forward suggested there is a “tone” to media coverage surrounding him, which he believes may stem from his campaigning for free school meals during the pandemic in which he was made an MBE.

    Rashford added: “I’m not trying to have a go at the media. I understand the game, you know what I mean? They’re not really writing about me. It’s like they’re writing about this character, ‘Marcus Rashford.’

    “It can’t just be about me as a 26-year-old lad on a night out, or a lad getting a parking ticket. It’s got to be about how much my car costs, guessing my weekly salary, my jewellery or even my tattoos.

    “It’s got to be about my body language, and questioning my morals, and speculating about my family, and my football future.

    “There’s a tone to it that you don’t get with all footballers. Let’s just leave it at that.

    “I think some of it goes back to the pandemic. I was just trying to use my voice to make sure that kids weren’t going hungry, because I know exactly how it feels.

    “For some reason, that seemed to rub certain people the wrong way. It seems like they’ve been waiting for me to have a human moment so they can point the finger and say, ‘See? See who he really is?’.”

  • Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag demands apology from Fulham over Bruno Fernandes post Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag demands apology from Fulham over Bruno Fernandes post

    Erik ten Hag has called on Fulham to apologise for appearing to mock Bruno Fernandes.

    Manchester United boss Ten Hag hit out at criticism implying his captain feigned injury after Wednesday’s FA Cup victory over Nottingham Forest.

    Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Manchester City, Ten Hag was asked about a TikTok post from Fulham showing Fernandes going down during last Saturday’s Premier League contest and accompanied by the caption: “So glad he’s ok…”

    The Dutchman reacted angrily, saying: “I didn’t know this, but if they did it I would say it is not right. It is absolutely not right that a club makes such a statement, because it is totally out of order and they were wrong so they should apologise for this.”

    Ten Hag believes Forest were targeting Fernandes and he added: “He is a very passionate football player and he’s a very creative one, he has created the most chances in the Premier League.

    “You see opponents are targeting him and especially after Saturday when he had the knock and they see it, and then I feel the referee should protect him there. They had to change at the start of the game because it was so obvious they were looking for him.”

    Ten Hag expects Fernandes and Raphael Varane, who was also a doubt for Wednesday, to be fit for the derby, but the likes of Harry Maguire and Rasmus Hojlund are likely to stay on United’s lengthy injury list.

    United go into the clash 15 points behind their neighbours and are currently eight adrift of a Champions League qualifying spot.

    City have not lost since early December, winning 16 of their last 18 games, while Ten Hag has been beaten in three of his four games against Pep Guardiola’s men.

    Last season’s trip to the Etihad ended in a 6-3 defeat for United, but Ten Hag believes his team can take confidence from their form, saying: “We are also in a good run and the spirit is very good, we are united, we have the togetherness to make a good game plan.

    “We have done it before against City, lately also against Liverpool. The players are ready for it, the players are looking forward to it, I can smell it when I am around here, when I speak with the players. We’re excited.

    “They have a good team but there are more good teams. They have won in the last season everything so we know that that’s the challenge, but also Liverpool have a very good team and there are more. We like such challenges.”

    New investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe stated his aim last week for United to knock City and Liverpool off their perch within three years.

    “You always want to play against the best so most of the times we feel and you can also see it that the opposition get their best outputs against Manchester United, and maybe this game is the other way around,” said Ten Hag.

    “We know we have to give everything and show really a team performance if you want to get a result. If you do it, it is possible.

    “From all the games we look back, we had the opportunity to win and we won one time but you need a great day. That is also what we know so the players have to give the best performances.”

  • 'I feel 40' – Birthday boy Doncic dispatches Raptors 'I feel 40' – Birthday boy Doncic dispatches Raptors

    Luka Doncic quipped he feels like he is 40 years old after he celebrated his 25th birthday in style.

    Doncic became the first player in NBA history to finish with a triple-double on their birthday as he led the Dallas Mavericks to a 136-125 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

    He finished with 30 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds for his 11th triple-double of the season.

    Doncic has now had 39 30-point triple-doubles, which sees him surpass LeBron James in the all-time list for that feat.

    When asked if he considered his 25th birthday as a milestone, Doncic joked: "I feel like [I'm] 40, so no."

    Doncic was 11 for 23 from the field and missed 7 of 8 from 3-point range in his 67th career triple-double.

    "Just a normal game, triple-double," Jason Kidd said.

    "He was really good. I guess 25 means he's still going to be really good as he gets older here."

    Kyrie Irving scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and P.J. Washington Jr. added 23 points for Dallas, as they bounced back from back-to-back defeats.

    "Kyrie and Luka, they had such a poise in important moments to make the right plays," said Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic after his team saw a three-game winning streak snapped.

    Doncic added: "We just played aggressive on defense, got out on transition, that's it. 

    "My team knows when I'm engaged. Everybody helps everyone to be engaged.

    "I'm having so much fun. Back-to-back is always tough, a great win today, I've got to get some rest now."

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