MANCHESTER – In the face of cruel taunts from Leeds fans, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho responded in style.
Both players scored in a rousing second-half comeback as Manchester United rallied Wednesday to salvage a 2-2 draw in the Premier League.
“You let your country down,” fans chanted in the away section at Old Trafford, bringing back painful memories of the United forwards' penalty misses in England's Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy.
But by the end of the game Rashford had scored his 20th goal of the season in all competitions to start United's comeback and Sancho had equalized to mark his return to the team.
Sancho's contribution was significant after he was given time off earlier this season in a bid to reignite his career.
“I am really happy he is in the right direction, I hope he can keep his momentum going and I am sure it will strengthen him and motivate him even more,” United manager Erik ten Hag said. “He is a brilliant footballer and if he can invest in the right levels he can be outstanding.”
Both Rashford and Sancho have taken time to get back on track after the disappointment of the Euros, which saw them subjected to racist abuse, along with Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, who also missed a penalty.
Rashford, however, is producing possibly the finest form of his career this season, while Saka is a key part of Arsenal's title challenge.
It has not been the same story for Sancho, who has struggled for consistency since joining United from Borussia Dortmund in 2021.
He lost his England place and missed out on last year's World Cup. And as his United form continued to suffer, he was given a break by Ten Hag before going on as a substitute against Nottingham Forest last week to make his first appearance since October.
With United facing a shock loss to relegation-fighting Leeds after going 2-0 down early in the second half, Sancho was given his chance to make an impact and didn't disappoint with a clinical finish to salvage a draw.
“I wanted a different dynamic. In that moment we weren’t in the game. Luckily it succeeded because we scored two goals," Ten Hag said. “He’s all the way back. We know he’s a magnificent player. I think consistently he can have a big impact.”
As rousing as United's comeback was, it couldn't shake the sense that its title ambitions had been dealt a blow.
Leeds, without a manager following the firing of Jesse Marsch on Monday and struggling for survival in the top flight, went close to consigning United to a first home defeat in the league since the opening day of the season after Wilfried Gnonto struck just 55 seconds into the match and Raphael Varane put the ball into his own net early in the second half.
Rashford and Sancho rescued a point, but United remains seven off leader Arsenal, having played two games more.
“Mixed feelings. Of course in the end we were happy to win a point — but we dropped two points," Ten Hag said. "It’s a very bad start, unacceptable, especially in a derby you have to be ready to battle and take responsibility. We didn’t do that.”
Fulham booked its place in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-2 win in its replay with Sunderland.
Harry Wilson and Andreas Pereira put the Premier League club in control, but Jack Clarke pulled one back for the home team.
Layvin Kurzawa made it 3-1 before Jewison Bennette struck for second-tier Sunderland.
Fulham faces Leeds in the next round.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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