Manchester United have endured a tough 2020/21 season which resulted in them finishing second in the Premier League, reaching the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup, the semi-final of the Carabao Cup and the final of the UEFA Europa League, after exiting the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. It is fair to say that United have ignored the right-wing position for longer than a decade with players brought in to fill the void rather that complete the team. Jadon Sancho is the player that United want to sign and have done for a few years now. Last summer, Facundo Pellistri signed for the club with a deal for Amad Diallo also happening, with the player moving to Manchester in January. There is the need for quality and experience though.
Jadon Sancho, 21 – Borussia Dortmund and England
The 21-year-old is the player that United really want to sign and a player that the supporters of he club have wanted for almost two years now. He would fit in so well at the club and help balance the squad, also being the only right winger that has experience at the club. Last summer, United signed Facundo Pellistri, who is a long way from making the first team at United and Amad Diallo, who has been involved in the first team since joining the club in January but has not cemented a place in the team – although he is a positive prospect. With some leadership from an experienced player, United could bring out the best of both Pellistri and Amad in the future which would also make the position stocked rather than depleted – as has been the case for years.
There is a lot of speculation surrounding Sancho at this time and with Euro 2020 on the horizon, it remains to be seen if anything can be completed before the tournament starts – the likelihood is that it will be done after the competition but at that time, if he and England do well, there could also be more competition from Liverpool, who have an interest in the player but only if the likes Mohamed Salah or Said Mane are sold this summer. Sancho would be my main choice for this position. It feels like the club are invested in him as a player but it is yet to be seen whether the club does actually want to bring him from Borussia Dortmund this summer. United would, at least on paper, be the team to beat next season with Sancho added to the squad.
David Neres, 24 – Ajax and Brazil
The 24-year-old has not really been strongly linked to United but could be a candidate, at least on a footballing scale if United do not end up signing Sancho. He started out at São Paulo but joined Ajax in 2016 and has done well for the club in that time – winning two Eredivisie titles, two KNVB Cups and one Johan Cruyff Shield. He also appeared in the UEFA Europa League final in 2017, which United won. His current contract expires in the summer of 2023 and he has seen a lot of interest over the past few years. In his time at Ajax, he has played 158 times, scoring 43 goals and assisting 39 times. He can play on either the left or right in an advanced position, which would be good to have, but he seems more comfortable on the right.
His recent conduct in Brazil could be enough to put United off as it does not look good for him breaking coronavirus rules to attend an underground party with 123 others. Still, mistakes are made by everyone and it is how he recovers from the mistake that makes the difference. United really need to bring in a player with experience on the right-wing as none of the current members of the squad seem settled there with Mason Greenwood the most likely to impress – but United should be striving to bring in the best players in the positions that need to be strengthened. Under Solskjaer, United have shown progress, unless you are one of those people that have an agenda that wants to ‘pretend’ progress is only trophies.
Pedro Gonçalves, 22 – Sporting CP and Portugal
The 22-year-old has been linked to United previously and is also being linked to Liverpool this summer. It is suggested that United and Liverpool would need to pay the €60 million release clause for the player this summer, which seems unlikely to happen as neither club will be willing to pay that much for the player. It is likely that a deal could be done but United seem to have other players higher on the list – Jadon Sancho for example. His current contract expires in the summer of 2025, so any agreement for the player would be led by Sporting, who have a good relationship with United after purchasing Bruno Fernandes in January 2020. There is no doubt that he is going to become a good player in the future but he will be a gamble.
Gonçalves is predominantly an attacking midfielder but he can play on the right-wing and in central midfield, so there is a chance that he’s not the player that United need at this time as a right winger is the real necessity for the club at this time – unless he is happy to play in the position, which also makes me wonder why and how he could be better that Sancho, which may not be the case. United would probably be better placed ensuring that Sancho becomes a United player this summer as he has been the player that Solskjaer and United have focussed so much attention on over the last few transfer windows. It was expected that United could sign the player last summer, but it never materialised. Hopefully, the same thing does not happen this summer.
Raphinha, 24 – Leeds United
The 24-year-old has taken the Premier League by storm in his debut season at Leeds United in their first season back in the English top flight. He has been linked to United, purely because of the player’s relationship with Bruno Fernandes, spending a season at Sporting CP with him before he left for Stade Rennais. Raphinha is contracted to Leeds until the summer of 2024 and they will have no reason to sell him this summer after finishing in the top half of the Premier League table, keeping their place in top flight football for at least another season. Liverpool are said to be interested in the player but it is well stated that they have not even made contact with Leeds, so you have to wonder whether that interest is real or media driven?
It is suggested that £32 million will be the fee for the player, if he does leave Elland Road this season, which will look tempting after his debut season at the club. During the 2020/21 season, the Brazilian made a total of 38 appearances in the Premier League, FA Cup, Premier League 2 and Ligue 1, scoring eight goals and 11 assists across the season. He might not be his up there on United’s wish list but the media seem to think that when player’s played for the same club some time ago, it will happen again – which really means nothing in this day and age. United’s priority will be Sancho and they will be seeking to get that deal across the line this summer. United will need to challenge in the Premier League next season and win at least one trophy.
Written by John Walker