At the start of August last year, it was widely reported that Jadon Sancho was, depending where you read, either close to agreeing personal terms, according to Sky Sports, or indeed had according to The Guardian, agreed personal terms with Manchester United. It seemed that he was on the brink of joining the red side of Manchester, just three years after leaving the blue side.
However, as we all know, it fell through. Or was it ever on? Who knows with Ed Woodward? Haggling over the transfer fee ended with United pulling the plug. Of course, transfer rumours never cease. Reports suggest that United will go in for him again at the end of the season, but this time they won’t be unopposed. It will be far harder to sign him in the summer of 2021, but should United even bother?
At the end of last season, that question seemed senseless. His form over the last two years have seen him break into the England squad. The season he joined, he made 12 appearances, slowly adjusting himself to the Bundesliga and first team football. He scored his first goal and set up another two in a 4-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen. Sancho had announced himself. The season after he would have his breakout season. 13 goals and 19 assists in all competitions turned Sancho into one of the first players on the team sheet. He had Manchester City licking their wounds at not being able to tie him down and if they were licking their wounds after that season, they would be spitting feathers in the next. 2018/19 may have been his breakout year, but 2019/2020 would see Sancho transcend into a star.
In 44 appearances he would score 20 and assist the same number. United’s interest would build throughout the year and after a slow start to the transfer window, the signing of Sancho was meant to begin United’s summer spree. The saga would drag on through the whole of the transfer window. With the window being far longer than a normal one due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it seemed to go on forever. Most people believed it would go through eventually, until it didn’t. Deciding against the signing, United would begin looking at other targets. Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman were considered, but in the end the only wingers signed were future prospects Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo. United seemed to be putting their trust into the players they already had at their disposal and especially Mason Greenwood.
Greenwood himself, had delivered a breakout season in 2019/20. Scoring 19 goals, he created a highly fluid front trio with Anthony Martial and Anthony Rashford as United stormed to third place in the second half of the season. To the very few detractors towards United signing Sancho, Mason Greenwood was often cited as their reason. If United signed Sancho, Greenwood would have fewer opportunities. It would stunt his growth. His performances were also seen as good enough to warrant a first team place. All of this was probably true, however despite Sancho not joining, Greenwood has struggled to nail down a first team place.
Edinson Cavani’s signing and subsequent good performances has seen him play more often than not when he’s been fit. Greenwood also didn’t help himself with his extra-curricular activities during his time with the England squad. Dan James, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all featured sparingly this season, so the right-wing position has not been nailed down. If United are to play a front three with everyone fit, then it will likely be Rashford on the right, Martial on the left and Cavani upfront. Cavani is only likely to stay one more year at the most and if they’re not convinced that Rashford and Greenwood are the man for the right wing and Pellistri and Diallo are not ready for next season, then Sancho might be wanted again.
The worry for some, however, is that this season he has struggled. In the league he has managed just one goal in 12 games. His performances haven’t matched the consistency of last season, although Dortmund will be hoping that he has returned to form with a sensation goal and an assist in their recent 2-0 against Wolfsburg. It has been claimed that Sancho’s lack of form has been down to the failed move to United. Despite all the talk about Sancho being happy to be at Dortmund, even if the move fell through, his performances have indicated otherwise. The fans who want him at Old Trafford next season will hope that is the sign the move is still on. However, it does pose the question over Sancho’s mentality. If the poor form is down to the move falling through, is he simply going through the motions until the move can be completed again? You’d like to think not, but Sancho has previous.
Before his move to Dortmund he began skipping training at Manchester City, stating he had no intention of going back until they let him leave. At just 20-years old there already seems to be a growing list of disciplinary issues. Back in 2017, as he was breaking into the first team, he was demoted to the under 23’s after reporting late for training on several occasions. In March 2018, he was cut from the England under 19 side for again turning up late for a training session. In October of 2019, he would be fined £86,000 for, you’ve guessed it, turning up late for training. On that occasion, he was made to run alone in the rain. A fine of £86,000 and running would be enough for most to not repeat those mistakes, but just a month later he would turn up late for a team meeting, just hours before a huge Champions League match against Barcelona.
He would be dropped to the bench and has since claimed that his tardiness is down to a sleeping problem. Whether or not it is true, and despite his tender age, it could be a risk for United to sign a player with a history of issues when Ole Gunner Solskjaer has worked so hard to foster a far better club harmony. United are now taking a far more analytical approach to transfers, relying on data, also ensuring that the players characters are right for the club. Whilst there may be question marks over Sancho, it seems unlikely that Solskjaer would go for a player if he had those worries.
Most United fans and pundits alike believe that United’s problems aren’t in the attacking areas and that they need reinforcements in the defensive positions. A holding midfielder and centre-backs are the order of the day this summer, but if Solskjaer is convinced on Sancho’s character and the winger returns to his form of last season, then he would only improve United’s options. If they could sign him, a midfielder and a defender, then it might be the most successful transfer window seen in Ed Woodward’s era.
Written by Huw Rawlings