Football news - Opinion: Could Marcus Rashford and Jason Sancho stop people hating Man Utd next season?
Manchester United announced the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund for an initial fee of £73 million on Friday afternoon. The move gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the right winger he has wanted for more than a year, but his experience with the England national team and new teammate Marcus Rashford could transform the team into something unrecognisable - a popular United side.
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford of England wait to be substituted on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England
Manchester United may have to wait a few months for Marcus Rashford to link up again with Jadon Sancho, but when they do it could transform the club on and off the pitch.
In the aftermath of England’s penalty disappointment, in part due to both his and Sancho’s misses, Rashford explained that his under-par performances were linked to a shoulder problem he had been suffering. An operation may now be needed, and it could keep him out of first team action for a couple of months, perhaps more.
That means that when they get Rashford back, United will hope they have the unencumbered wide forward who can score and provoke regularly, rather than the one-note struggler he was too often last season.
In his absence, the pressure will be on the former Borussia Dortmund man. He may have fewer goals than Rashford over the last few seasons, but Sancho’s improvement is on a steeper gradient. It is fair to expect more from Sancho’s career than it is from his new colleague’s.
However, the excitement should be building about what United’s frontline could offer, and threaten, when the five senior members are all fit.
Sancho and Rashford are different players, of course, but at their best they deliver similar threats. While fundamentally one-footed, they can dart both inside and outside defenders. They can finish, and they can assist. At their best they will nail down the left and right wings for the side, and allow whomever is the main striker on a particular occasion to flourish.
For the start of the season, that is likely to be Edinson Cavani, presumably in his last season in Europe before a return to America, North or South.
Edinson Cavani - Uruguay
Image credit: Getty Images
The Uruguayan grew into his role at United after he assimilated, and was their most consistent striker when compared to Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood. Now in his mid-thirties, the verve and energy from the flanks will allow him to focus his energies more efficiently.
There will also be benefits where Greenwood and Martial are concerned. For the teenage striker he will be given the chance to contribute to a more competent forward line. The pressure will be off to perform, instead he can learn. If he wants, there is much to learn from in terms of technique and experience.
One lesson he may learn, from Martial especially but perhaps Rashford as well, is that patience will not always be so generous.
No longer the hot new thing, Martial’s failure to convert his talent and pace into consistency has left him vulnerable. He has the support of Twitter idiots, but then again so do a lot of things that shouldn’t be indulged. The arrival of Sancho should give notice to everyone up front that there is now an alternative should Solskjaer decide he needs to take action. Across this United side it has been obvious for far too long that players can stick out the place because the squad keeps them as the best possible option, regardless.
But off the pitch, Sancho’s arrival means something too. In the era of the Class of 92, United’s players were basically hated. They were not much more popular when Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand took over the obligations of representing club and country. Now, it is a little difference.
Usain Bolt backs Olympic athlete protests and slams 'ridiculous' abuse of Saka, Rashford and Sancho
Rashford’s activism is, like any other, deserving of scepticism and criticism, because both these tools are a way to produce progress through conflict. But the fact is, viz the Spectator and the Gammon Brigade, Rashford winds up all the right people and the pressure he has brought to bear on the government over child poverty and hunger has been singularly the most beneficial and positive achievement of any anti-government movement of the past decade. Whether that counts as praise of Rashford as an indictment of the rest of us is up to you.
Nevertheless, Rashford has gained the respect of as many people as he has agitated. He is, if not cool, then popular.
Sancho of course, is different, but the support he garnered, along with Bukayo Saka, demonstrates that there is a new group of England and English fan whose fervour is aimed at players regardless of their base allegiances. It gives United that rare chance - to be popular, and maybe on some level, good.
There are caveats, of course, so self-evident that to list just some would rile up the aforementioned Twitter idiots who would demand the others are also addressed. But United have been used to being simultaneously imperious and hated at the same time. Sancho and Rashford gives them the chance to learn to win again, and finally be liked for doing so.