In Focus: Why United made Sancho their main man
They say good things come to those who wait — and Manchester United’s long-running pursuit of Jadon Sancho is finally set to pay off.
United have agreed a £73million fee with Borussia Dortmund for the England international, who is expected to sign a five-year contract upon completion of a medical.
As one of the most drawn-out transfer sagas in recent memory reaches its conclusion, we take a look at why United have been so determined to secure Sancho’s signature.
Goals and assists
Sancho’s numbers since breaking through at Dortmund have been astonishing.
The winger has scored 50 career goals for BVB and also reached 50 Bundesliga assists last season, managing that feat in just 99 appearances — making him both the youngest and fastest player in German league history to reach that milestone.
As if that was not enough, the 21-year-old’s 2019-20 campaign saw him become the first player to score more than 15 goals and register over 15 assists in a single Bundesliga season since records began.
An influx of goal contributions is exactly what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side is crying out for.
After all, only three players in the United squad managed more than 10 Premier League strikes last term, while only Bruno Fernandes hit double figures for assists.
Theatre of dreams
Sancho is the type of player Red Devils fans have longed for since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
With the flair to conjure something out of nothing, he will add a sense of unpredictability to United’s attack, while opposition supporters should brace themselves for Sancho’s mazy runs that bamboozle defenders.
In the Bundesliga last season, the winger made the most (81) dribbles into the final third and also made the most (82) successful passes into the penalty box — expect more of the same when he returns to England.
A player for the big occasion
Fernandes was Manchester United’s talisman last season but there are doubts over his ability to perform in the biggest matches.
He had little impact in the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal and failed to make a significant impression on Portugal’s ill-fated European Championship campaign.
Sancho, on the other hand, has proven himself on the biggest stage.
After scoring two goals and providing three assists in just six Champions League games last season, he rounded off 2020-21 with an emphatic display in the DFB Pokal final.
In a 4-1 victory over RB Leipzig, Sancho scored twice and contributed one assist to help Dortmund lift the trophy.
Left and right delight
Sancho started the cup final against Leipzig on the left-hand side of Dortmund’s front three — something German football fans have not seen too often.
Typically deployed on the right wing for BVB, it is Bundesliga left-backs who have become used to enduring sleepless nights over the thought of the England star running at them.
But the ability to unleash Sancho on either the left or the right is an asset that should not be sniffed at.
Most importantly, it will afford Solskjaer the opportunity to rest Marcus Rashford when required — something he was simply unable to do despite the Three Lions star looking desperately jaded at times during the the campaign.
But it will also remove doubts over new arrivals potentially stunting the development of academy graduate Mason Greenwood.
The 19-year-old forward has often been used on the right of an attacking trio but his future at Old Trafford is thought to lie down the middle as a striker.
Regardless, it will not be a case of Solskjaer needing to pick one man or the other when Sancho does arrive.
The right time
The fact United were pursuing Sancho last summer was one of football’s worst-kept secrets.
Dortmund had declared a self-imposed August 10 deadline for a deal to be struck, which United failed to meet after refusing to match their £108m asking price.
Now, with only two years remaining on his contract, his price has dropped and the fee United are paying represents good value for one of Europe’s most exciting young talents.
The Red Devils finally have their man and it looks to have been worth the wait.