Opinion: How will Jadon Sancho fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Man Utd team?
Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United have confirmed an agreement for the transfer of Jadon Sancho to the Premier League, bringing to an end a long and often tedious transfer saga. But how will the 21-year-old fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team? What role will the £73m winger play at Old Trafford?
Sancho refused to rule out a move away from Dortmund
By the time Manchester United officially announced the agreement of a deal with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of Jadon Sancho, most fans’ excitement had veered into indifference. Not because of any unease over Sancho himself - the 21-year-old is the biggest statement United have made since Paul Pogba - but because few transfer pursuits had been as tedious as this one.
Sancho’s switch to Old Trafford has been on the cards for the last 18 months, at least. Speculation around the England international dominated the gossip column last summer only for nothing to come of it. Sancho stayed at Dortmund, and so did the speculation as the incessant talk continued.
Now, though, with a transfer all but completed, United can finally start thinking about what Sancho will look like in red, and more importantly how he will fit into their team. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the winger a target almost as soon as he took over at the club, so what’s his plan to get the best out of his new £73m man?
The most obvious place for Sancho in United’s current set-up appears to be on the right side where they lack a true winger. Mason Greenwood has impressed in the role over the last two seasons, but the youngster isn’t much of a creator. Instead, he uses his position on the right as a starting point to cut inside and try at goal.
Sancho’s numbers - 50 goals and 64 assists in 137 games - for Borussia Dortmund over the last four seasons hint at the sort of player Manchester United are getting. The 21-year-old is a true attacking hub capable of playing in a number of different positions and in a variety of different ways.
Some argue, with good reason, that Sancho is in fact more effective off the left wing where he can cut inside on to his right foot - see the goal he scored for Dortmund against RB Leipzig in last season’s DFB Pokal final. United, of course, are already well-stocked for options on the left - see Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and even Dan James.
Solskjaer probably isn’t too worried about this. The Norwegian wants his Manchester United team to be a fluid, interchangeable unit in the attacking third and the signing of Sancho will aid this, with the 21-year-old, Martial and Rashford all capable of playing anywhere across the frontline.
United need more than the signing of Sancho to catch Manchester City at the top of the Premier League next season. There does, however, seem to be a recognition of this at Old Trafford, with reports of a move for Raphael Varane emerging almost as soon as the deal for Sancho was agreed.
Raphael Varane of Real Madrid in action during the La Liga Santander match between Real Madrid and Real Betis at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in Madrid, Spain on April 24, 2021.
Image credit: Getty Images
Spain and Villarreal defender Pau Torres is also believed to be a target as Solskjaer looks to add a world class centre back to his squad this summer. Then there’s the rumours linking Manchester United with midfield anchors Eduardo Camavinga and Declan Rice, both of whom would give the Old Trafford outfit better balance in the centre of the pitch.
A big part of Manchester United’s problem in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson age was an inability to identify the right targets in the transfer market. They spent money, lots of it, but frequently on players who never suited the manager in charge at the time or the club as a whole.
Now, though, with a new sporting structure in place and Ed Woodward no longer so powerful, United are making progress, not just in the signings they are making, but the profile of players they are targeting. Sancho proves that and so too would the signing of some of the other names they are tracking.