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Sunday, October 24, 2021

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Manchester United know how to get best out of Jadon Sancho

When the fourth official’s electronic scoreboard lit up in the wake of Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dismal dismissal on Tuesday night there was an inevitability about which numbers would be displayed.

Diogo Dalot was the only logical replacement at right-back after Manchester United’s failed summer pursuit of Kieran Trippier and Eric Bailly couldn’t be risked in the role after his last calamitous showing there against Paris Saint-Germain two years ago.

In order to accommodate the Portuguese youngster someone’s outing had to be cut short, it was little surprise to see summer signing Jadon Sancho sacrificed.

Just as Donny van de Beek would make way for Raphael Varane at half-time it was clear to see the players who are yet to fully earn Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s trust on what was slowly unravelling into a disastrous night.

Sancho has played a part in all five of United’s matches so far this season but despite having made more appearances than any of the club’s other marquee summer signings he has easily had the least impact.

For a few outspoken fans on social media such a slow start is being perceived as alarming but looking back at Sancho’s time at Dortmund should provide fresh optimism about the impact which he will be able to make in the months ahead.

The England international would only net one goal and grab four assists during his first season in German football before flourishing in his second season with a return of 12 goals and 18 assists, gradually growing into his new environment and hitting his stride as a result.

Expectation on Sancho seems to be higher than it is for most 21-year-old’s arrivals in the Premier League, mainly due to his £72.9million price-tag, but also partly because he is English and considered a homegrown talent despite having spent four crucial years in the Bundesliga.

“The only thing which upsets me is why did he need to leave the Premier League?” his former Watford youth coach Louis Lancaster told MEN Sport. “We have to be incredibly grateful to Germany for giving our players the opportunity. You have to appreciate players are going to make mistakes, it’s part of the process, but it is how they come back from those.

“Jadon went away, his first year wasn’t too great, but he had people who trust him and now what he has achieved is incredible. He got his England call-up because of Germany, because of Borussia Dortmund.”

When discussing his slow start to life back in the Premier League it is also important to remember Sancho struggled to get going following his failed move to United a year ago before finding his rhythm at the Westfalenstadion.

The young forward would only score four times and grab eight assists by the end of the year before eventually finishing the campaign with 16 goals and 20 assists across all club competitions, something which former manager Lucien Favre was quick to sympathise with.

“Every player has slow periods,” the former Dortmund manager said of Sancho. “There was a lot of talk about Jadon in the summer, something like that can also have an influence.

“But no player is consistently in top form for a year, that’s impossible. You have to accept that.”

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Favre’s comments are timely in the current climate where a vocal minority on social media look to write players off only a handful of matches into a new season, but United also have a role to play if they are to get the best out of Sancho.

Although he was signed to address the right wing issue at the club the 21-year-old actually made more appearances on the left flank for Dortmund last season and might need a regular run out there to build confidence at his new club.

Another key factor in his success at Dortmund was that Sancho shone cutting in from the wing areas where he was supported out wide by an overlapping full-back, something which Luke Shaw can do but a craft which Wan-Bissaka is still learning.

While on paper it might seem as straightforward as putting Sancho on the right wing and watching him shine he might need to switch to the left or play alongside a new full-back if he is to immediately re-capture his Dortmund form.

Only five matches into his United career there should be no worries about his long-term suitability for the right wing role, even if his start has been slow.

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