For a marquee signing several years in the making, Jadon Sancho’s first few months at Manchester United have been a major disappointment.
The 21-year-old joined United in July for £73 million from Borussia Dortmund. His electric form across a four-year stint in the Bundesliga convinced Red Devils’ boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that the England winger could make a significant contribution at Old Trafford.
Predominantly playing on the right flank during his time in Germany, Sancho notched up an impressive 50 goals and 65 assists in 134 games for Dortmund.
So far in his 13 appearances for United, Sancho has yet to record a single goal or assist. It should also be noted that he has only completed 90 minutes for his new club on one occasion – that coming in a 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham in September.
A report from The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell (subscription required) has broken down some of the factors behind Sancho’s struggles – and has revealed Solskjaer’s plan to try and deploy him in a new role.
Sancho’s underwhelming start at Manchester United
Although Sancho arrived at the Theatre of Dreams to much fanfare over the summer, he slipped down the pecking order at the club before a ball was even kicked this season.
The shock return of Cristiano Ronaldo to United after a 12-year absence meant that Solskjaer immediately adapted his plans for the campaign to accommodate the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Tellingly, one of the knock-on effects of the move saw Mason Greenwood shifted from a central role out to the right, providing increased competition for Sancho. As a result, all of his starts for his new club have come from the left side – hardly ideal when looking to make an impact in a new home.
On top of that, Sancho has had to deal with a number of physical issues, including an ear infection that affected his equilibrium and a calf injury.
The player is also said to have been shocked at the pace of the English game when compared to that of the Bundesliga during United’s Premier League encounter with Newcastle, something his new teammates reportedly told him to “get used to”.
In fairness to Sancho, he has worked diligently to address that gap, impressing United’s coaching staff with his application. According to The Athletic’s sources, there is a “general belief that there is more to come” from the player.
Sancho to be used as a wing-back at Manchester United?
Despite his limited first-team opportunities, Sancho’s work rate whenever he has been given the chance to pull on a United jersey has stood out to Solskjaer and his team – and there is now seemingly a growing school of thought that he could have a future as a right-sided wing-back at the club.
Given their wretched run of form, there is no doubt that Solskjaer needs to make changes to his underperforming side.
Rather than giving Sancho a run in his preferred right-wing position, though, United coaching staff believe he could be a potential replacement for Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the team’s 3-4-1-2 system.
There is said to be genuine concern about Wan-Bissaka’s attacking ability in the right wing-back role, to the point that Sancho has recently been used in that position in training.
Whether we see him take up the role on the pitch for United remains to be seen – especially with major question marks over Solksjaer’s future as manager.
Reacting to the report on social media, fans of the club are baffled as to why their boss would try and re-train such a potent threat as Sancho in a new position, rather than simply employing him in the role where he made his name.
“We waited for two years to sign him and we’re going to use him as a RWB? I have no words,” declared one supporter.
“This is absolutely horrendous,” wrote a second.
“I’m done with this club,” replied another disillusioned fan.
“The man isn’t your typical winger. He works better in half-spaces. Ole doesn’t know what Sancho is,” stated a fourth.
“If this happens Ole deserves to be banned from Old Trafford for life,” suggested a final comment.
At this point, Sancho might simply be glad of the game time, but it’s absolutely not a tactical switch that United fans want to see.
Solskjaer to stay at Man Utd? (Football Terrace)