Jadon Sancho has been heavily linked to a summer move to Manchester United for the majority of the last six months. All sorts of figures have been thrown around but if the English international were to complete the move, where would he fit in the team and would he actually fix any of the issues United currently have?
Sancho’s preferred position is as a right-winger, where Daniel James spent most of his playing time for United this season. Whilst James didn’t put up incredible numbers, he played a vital role in counter-attacks – especially against Manchester City at the Etihad to set up Anthony Martial’s goal.
With 27 appearances in the league for United and only contributing three goals and six assists, maybe James needs to learn from Sancho before we see his best.
It is clear that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not afraid to sit back and then counter against the big sides, meaning pace is key. Sancho, Marcus Rashford, James and Martial all have that pace required and being said like that – that attack sounds scary. But with one striker seeming the option when everybody is fit, it will be Martial up there (if a striker isn’t signed). Which would mean Rashford on the left-wing and either James or Sancho on the right. Dropping James would not only be confidence damaging but also may slow his progress as a United player – which he doesn’t deserve.
The counter-argument to slowing down James’ progress would be that the 1999 treble-winning side and the 2008 Champions League winners side both had great talent on the pitch and on the bench to change the game. At the moment, United do not have many game-changers to prove their worth off the bench. Out of everybody, Solskjaer will know the importance of this role as he was often a super-sub for Andy Cole or Dwight Yorke.
Breaking down lower league teams who sit back and defend has been a challenge for United in recent seasons. However, letting the better quality teams attack and United hit them on the break has worked to great lengths.
It’s all good beating the big teams for bragging rights, but you play more of the sides who sit back and defend, which is where the creativity needs to flourish.
Sancho would bring that creativity that sometimes James lacks out on the wing, and if it doesn’t work on that particular day for Sancho, James can make an impact off the bench and present a different challenge for that designated left-back.
This is a similar case to Martial when Zlatan Ibrahimovic came to the side, he took Martial’s number and we saw his performances severely lack confidence. Since Zlatan left and Martial could return to the main man up top, Martial has enjoyed his most successful season since joining the club.
The other piece to the puzzle is Paul Pogba, with Scott McTominay, Fred and Bruno Fernandes sealing their place in the starting 11…who would drop out for the French midfielder? Now that is a whole different argument for a different time and place.