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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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Manchester United academy star has potential to follow PSG ace’s partnership with Sancho

Jadon Sancho has not had an ideal start to his Manchester United career, and however this season ends, he could have a little extra help in 2022.

The beginning of this campaign was not how it was meant to play out. Manchester United are nine points off the pace in the Premier League and Sancho is without a goalscoring contribution for his new club, going into the November international break.

But we are where we are. The question is how can we get the England international that Manchester United paid £73m (BBC Sport) to sign, rekindling his Dortmund form and fast.

The quick answer many people would suggest is sign Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland. That would be a phenomenal double swoop.

But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, if at all. Solskjaer needs to find a way of getting the best out of Sancho within his current crop of players.

Laird and Sancho partnership

Birmingham City v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship
(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

With just six Manchester United starts under his belt so far, Sancho hasn’t nailed down a position in the starting line-up as of yet.

Yes, Solskjaer needs to give him mor playing time, but the key is finding a partnership which allows Sancho to flourish.

In 2018/19 and 2019/20, Sancho was playing in front of attacking right-back Achraf Hakimi.

It’s no coincidence that the former Manchester City academy man’s best season of his career to date, which came in 2019/20, was when he was playing alongside Hakimi.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-COLOGNE
(Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

The Moroccan, who signed for Paris Saint Germain this summer after a year at Inter Milan, is a marauding full-back whose first thought is to get forward and contribute to his side’s attacking play.

United currently have the total opposite in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a full-back who looks frightened to death of going beyond the halfway line.

At the end of the 2019/20 campaign, across all competitions, Sancho had amassed 20 goals and 20 assists from 44 games.

Not to be outshined, in the same season, Hakimi had contributed nine goals and 10 assists from 45 games, a phenomenal return for a full-back.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Now after spending £50m on Wan-Bissaka (BBC Sport), no amount of money is going to convince PSG to part ways with Hakimi, so there isn’t an immediate chance to bring Hakimi to Old Trafford, with the thinking that would immediately resolve the Sancho predicament.

But if Solskjaer looks a little bit closer to home, he may find the answer in Ethan Laird.

The club’s academy graduate may only be plying his trade in the Championship for the first time, but he has the desire and willingness to go forward that Wan-Bissaka so severely lacks.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Laird is currently in the middle of a season-long loan at Swansea City, and he already has four assists to his name from 16 games.

He currently sits joint third for the average number of dribbles per game in the Championship (WhoScored) with 2.2. He’s also averaging 1.5 key passes per game.

In contrast, Wan-Bissaka averages 1.6 dribbles and 0.7 key passes. Such is the threat Laird poses, he is currently the third most fouled player in the Championship.

Coventry City v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship
(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Having a full-back bombing past him, who will equally create space, and also be a constant outlet, is what Sancho so desperately craves on United’s right-hand side, the position he was bought to fill and make his own.

As it stands, Wan-Bissaka doesn’t look like he’s ever going to be a player with a similar mindset and mould of Hakimi.

United’s DNA has been built on attack-minded full-backs, overlapping their wingers.

Laird has all those traits in abundance and although he is raw and unproven at the highest level, he could be the man to form a formidable partnership with Sancho that could hit the heights of his time with Hakimi.

United have two options, whether to recall Laird in January, or wait on him for next summer when he has a full year’s loan under his belt. One way or another, we should get to see this partnership take shape in 2022, sooner or later.

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