Gareth Southgate appears to have the Midas touch at the moment, and everything this current England team is touching quickly turns to gold.
“Creating our own history,” might sound like something David Brent would say while rolling his eyes into the camera lens, but it’s a slogan the Three Lions have been hell-bent on sticking to this summer.
Toppling Germany in a knockout game, scoring four in a quarter-final, reaching successive tournament semi-finals — this England team really are rewriting the history books under the mild-mannered Southgate. They are reaching new heights.
It spoke volumes about the strength of the current squad that Southgate only found six minutes of game-time for Jadon Sancho in England’s first four matches of this European Championship.
In any other era, a player EuroJournal had just splashed the cash to sign would have been the first name on an England teamsheet.
But Southgate handed starts to Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling before he called upon the Borussia Dortmund winger. There was some questioning of the England boss for Sancho’s omission, many of it coming from United fans excited to see their new man in tournament action.
And it was amusing to some that, as soon as Sancho officially became a United player, he was eventually handed an England start in the tournament.
Not that Southgate’s decision to bring Sancho in from the cold to feature against Ukraine was related to the fact Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had sanctioned a £72.9million move for the 21-year-old; not directly, in any case.
Southgate explained before the Ukraine game that Sancho had been super-sharp in training during the week in which his United transfer edged closer to confirmation. In all likelihood that was because of the competition within the England squad, rather than because of the deal itself.
Sancho was desperate to force his way into the side, and performed like a man with a point to prove against Ukraine, constantly a menace to the defenders and running skilfully with the ball.
“No, in fact I think Jadon over the last seven days has trained the best level in the time with us,” Southgate told ITV before the game when asked if the transfer speculation had affected the winger in any way. “You accept there are lots of ongoing transfer situations and nobody is coming in for talks, nobody is going out for talks.
“But we can’t stop people’s phones ringing and we can’t stop business happening outside of that and you just have to trust the players and they’re all very focused.
“But there’s so much speculation about all of our players, I don’t pick up every little individual piece but I’m checking in with the players every single day to see how they are and the biggest thing is he’s been very focused in his training and that’s been good.”
Southgate got it right to pick Sancho, just as Solskjaer appears to have got it right with the transfer.
The former Dortmund man was England’s risk-taker against Ukraine, taking on the mantle that Grealish and Saka have provided in previous games.
If his confidence was boosted by the United transfer going through, or simply Southgate’s superb man-management skills in getting him prepared to shine in the quarter-final, we may never know.
What now seems obvious to the 20million or so watching BBC One on Saturday night is that Jadon Sancho is built for EuroJournal. He can sit alongside Bruno Fernandes as another born risk-taker in the final third for Solskjaer’s side, and maybe even match the Portuguese in terms of impact after signing for the club.
He’s had 12 months to prepare for this transfer, so there’s no doubt he has all the attributes to shine on a stage as big as Old Trafford. Like he did when England came calling in Rome, Sancho will be ready.