Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have failed their first Manchester United objective this season #MUFC

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Man Utd duo Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have so far failed to bolster their World Cup hopes

Bottom of the Premier League table, yet to score a goal via one of their own players and ready to sell one of their most exciting prospects.

To say all is not rosy in Manchester United's garden is something of an understatement. Saturday's humiliating 4-0 defeat to Brentford at the Gtech Comminity Stadium has left supporters raging and manager Erik ten Hag scathing with his players, as highlighted by his decision to put them through a gruelling, sun-drenched training session on what was supposed to be their day off on Sunday.

United, just as they were against Brighton Hove Albion on the opening day of the season, were second best in the capital, resulting in them not only being beaten but destroyed by a club that was playing in League One the last time the Premier League trophy was delivered to Old Trafford. Brentford steamrolled Ten Hag's side in the space of just 35 minutes, racing into a commanding 4-0 lead before the half-time pie rush had even started.

While United's ongoing problems extend from the very top of the chain, there is no denying that individual errors and questionable tactics contributed to a seventh successive away defeat. David de Gea, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw and Christian Eriksen were just four players whose performances and errors earned justified criticism.

But although they faltered at the back, questions have to be asked of the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. They all went missing in the sweltering west London heat and their presences were non-existent, just as they were against Brighton.

As talented as they may be, United have seen nothing from any of them to suggest that they deserve to keep their starting berths against Liverpool next Monday evening. As Ten Hag said in his post-match debrief on Saturday evening, if he could have changed all of them at half-time, he would have done. And you would not have blamed him.

The trio were anonymous against Thomas Frank's side, meaning Sancho and Rashford, especially, look shadows of the players they were in pre-season. It highlighted just how misleading pre-season can be and why performances in meaningless, dead-rubber games should be measured with a degree of caution.

Sancho scored three times in four matches during United's tour of Thailand and Australia. He looked sharp, rejuvenated and aligned with the way Ten Hag wanted his team to play. He was a constant threat and linked-up superbly with Diogo Dalot down the right. His performances offered encouragement that United were finally going to start and see a return on their £72.9million investment.

Rashford, too, also impressed during pre-season, showing signs of life after a torrid 2021/22 campaign. But he has also been anonymous in the opening two fixtures, having no impact on either game.

 
It has been an underwhelming start to the season for Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho.
It has been an underwhelming start to the season for Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho. (Image: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.)

And considering the start of the World Cup is now less than 100 days away, both players have failed to pass their most recent auditions for a place in Gareth Southgate's squad. They were both left out of the Nations League fixtures that took place in June, meaning they are already playing catch up to win their places back.

Southgate sounded a warning to the pair of them just two months ago, saying: "We've only got one [United player] with us [Harry Maguire]. They've got a lot to do to get back in the squad."

They now have even more work to do. Their opening two outings this season have been so ineffective that Southgate has probably had to check if Ten Hag even named them on his teamsheet. They need to, regardless of how they do it, find a way that it is going to get them noticed again, otherwise they risk having to wait another four years before they can perform on the biggest stage of all.

 

United have 14 more Premier League fixtures before the season pauses for the World Cup, meaning there is still time for Sancho and Rashford to stake a claim. However, United have just six more games before the final round of international fixtures before the World Cup, by which time Southgate will have a very clear idea of who he will be taking with him.

They were warned that they needed to hit the ground running at the start of this season, but they have done anything but. They now face a race against time.

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