With reports suggesting Jadon Sancho has now agreed terms ahead of a move to Manchester United, we consider how the player could fit in at Old Trafford, and if there are any obstacles in his way.
At just 22, Sancho now appears ready to bring his time in Germany to an end, and on Tuesday night it was reported that the Borussia Dortmund player has finalised the terms that would see him sign a deal to play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer next season.
Of course, just because the player and his proposed future club have an accord, it does not mean that Dortmund will roll over. It would have been a shock had Sancho and United not come to a similar understanding last season just in case a transfer was completed, but Ed Woodward and his German counterpart were unable to make a deal. It is far from inevitable that a transfer could be complete. Dortmund need to identify a replacement and United are notoriously poor at negotiating contentious transfers.
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However, on the balance of probabilities it appears that a move will go through. United are going to pack a lot of their deadwood off, and a few players are coming towards the end of their contract. If Phil Jones, David de Gea, Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Sergio Romero all depart, that’s a hefty gap on the wage bill to be filled, along with a few million brought in. A fee of around £80 million for Sancho shouldn't be too difficult. Shouldn't.
A transfer seems likely, and one would anticipate that Sancho would be a success at United. They are in need of a right winger, with Juan Mata’s contract extension more of a pragmatic offer than a desire to keep a one-paced thirty-something on the right, and none of James, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have made that spot their own. Now is the chance to embrace the specialist and ensure that a glaring weakness in the squad is addressed.
What Sancho brings to the side is a technical ability that Rashford has yet to match, for all his application. He has pace allied to a control of the ball that James has yet to relocate. His fitness compares favourably to Martial, whose inconsistency is becoming a sticking point given he is now 25. Solskjaer seems to have lost patience with the French striker, who has the talent to succeed, so something else is holding him back, and it is not always the obligation of a club to help a player work through that.
Sancho is used to working with an incredible striker in the form of Erling Haaland. He may then grow frustrated with Edinson Cavani, who is no longer capable of playing every game despite his generally high standards, and Greenwood and Rashford are not yet consistently deadly in front of goal. Of course, playing with his international teammates may add enjoyment and effectiveness over the long term, but the truth is that the winger will have to lower his expectations. What United need is someone who demands those around him to raise their game, just as Bruno Fernandes does. We do not know enough of the former City youngster to know what his commitment is like in this regard.
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He’ll also have to deal with Aaron Wan-Bissaka as his main support on the right. While Sancho will improve United’s threat on the flanks, he will get limited assistance from a player who is excellent in the tackle but has been slow to improve in every other aspect of his game. Gary Neville’s working relationship with David Beckham shows the way forward for a hardworking player, but the former Crystal Palace defender has stagnated, for now at least.
Where Sancho may thrive in a way he has not in Germany is that he will be able to work with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. In the Frenchman, he has a player who should be able to pick him out with deft, short passes into the box, and also who could find him from deep. When Pogba is on it, there are few with his range. Perhaps giving him the luxury of excellence will spark Pogba into something closer to his national team form.
Similarly, there are few better decisive goalscoring midfielders than Fernandes. He may often appear scrappy, and sometimes even bordering on bafflingly ineffective, but his stats back up his importance to the team. If Sancho can create chances for the Portuguese, then United are just one defensive player from a midfield which can dominate games.
For other big money signings from abroad, the usual concerns are whether the player can get a handle on the culture of the Premier League, but that would appear moot given Sancho’s early departure from England. He has had little difficulty acclimating to international duty, either. It won’t be easy dealing with a United side that still have much to change, but Sancho is one player with the talent to make a huge difference.
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