Jadon Sancho will be the first to admit his first few months at Manchester United have not gone exactly to plan.
Signed from Borussia Dortmund for £73million in July, Sancho finally completed his protracted move to Old Trafford, which was some 18 months in the making.
United drove a hard bargain to complete the deal, the third-most expensive in their history, having initially baulked at the Bundesliga giants’ valuation in excess of over £100m.
But after five appearances for the Red Devils, Sancho has failed to register a goal or an assist. In the era of modern football, such a run is nearly unforgivable.
The demands of football fans have never been higher — and that is somewhat understandable. Salaries and transfer fees are at an all-time high, ticket prices are going through the roof and the seven million or so fantasy football managers require big point returns.
Jadon Sancho has struggled in his first few months at Man Utd ( Image:
Conor Molloy/News Images) Time is not something afforded to the modern footballer. If one week he has an off-day, immediately there are calls for the manager to bench him.
Sancho has quickly found out how short the honeymoon period can last, with some fans already questioning his recent performances. Meanwhile, the return of Cristiano Ronaldo and his return of three goals in two games has overshadowed his arrival.
But those who know football will acknowledge that the best footballers do not go from superb to substandard overnight. Sometimes, it is a matter of patience and trying new ideas to fit the individual.
For Sancho, it is fair to say both apply.
It is certainly not the first time the goals have dried up. Only a year ago, it took the 21-year-old until October to notch his first of the campaign for Dortmund in all competitions. In the Bundesliga, he failed to find the net until January.
What could not be denied was that he had become unsettled by United’s pursuit last summer and Dortmund’s refusal to sell. When asked about Sancho’s form, then manager Lucien Favre directly suggested the Red Devils’ interest had distracted his player.
But Favre knew the player he had at his disposal, having overseen his transition from the youth team to the senior squad. Eventually, he knew Sancho would find form again and persisted to select him in his starting XI.
Jadon Sancho eventually came good for Dortmund with 17 goals for BVB in 2020-21 It was clear that in a foreign country at such a young age where he did not fluently speak the language was taking its toll. Sancho required some time away from the pitch — and the Bundesliga’s Christmas break offered the perfect moment to step aside.
“Obviously this season has been very difficult for me personally,” the BVB star told the Bundesliga’s official website.
“So I knew when I went away, I just focused on my game and came back raring to go.”
Sancho returned a different player: revitalised and ready to terrorise defences once again.
He would go on to score 17 goals in the Bundesliga as Dortmund, under interim coach Edin Terzic, shot up the standings to second behind Bayern Munich.
What’s more, he had renewed the devastating link-up between himself and Erling Haaland, the Norwegian striker who bagged 41 goals in all competitions in 2020-21.
Jadon Sancho scored the majority of his goals in the second half of the season ( Image:
Getty Images) His influence was absolutely vital to Dortmund’s attacking instincts. Sancho made more passes into the penalty area (82) than any other player in the league and also carried the ball in the final third with 81 dribbles.
In order to get the best out of him, Sancho needs to feel comfortable on the ball and trusted. Whether he has convinced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he is worthy of such a role remains unclear.
The Norwegian knows the player he has at his disposal. He insisted the likes of Ed Woodward, John Murtough and Matt Judge — Man Utd’s chief recruitment team — fought until the bitter end to negotiate a deal for the forward.
When asked about his new signing in August, Solskjaer gushed about his talents and backed him to be a success.
“For me, he fits us like a glove, because he is creative, fearless, he has got quality, is hard working, is humble and he has got all of the attributes to be a success at Man United,” he said.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has yet to find the best role for Jadon Sancho ( Image:
DeFodi Images via Getty Images) “He’s very young and sometimes you think ‘wow, all the experience he has on his young shoulders’. He will also get better.”
Yet, those words have not translated when it comes to how he has handled Sancho’s transition into the United squad.
He was left on the bench for the first game of the season against against Leeds, only brought on late in the game when the three points were in the bag. That was understandable, as Sancho had been “feeling sick” and trained once at that point since returning to Carrington.
Yet it was the same story at St Mary’s when he was asked to try to find United a winner against a resilient Southampton side. A short cameo rendered very little.
At last, the full debut arrived at Molineux against Wolves. But United were off colour and Sancho did not fare much better, having been hooked after 72 minutes. He managed 66 minutes against Newcastle after the international break, but his replacement Jesse Lingard bagged a late goal to make it 4-1.
Jadon Sancho was taken off in the first half by Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer against Young Boys Then, on Tuesday night, he was the sacrificial lamb against Young Boys after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off after just 35 minutes. Sancho hadn’t played well, with some heavy touches and loose passes, but it felt like a coded message from his manager that he wants more.
Whether it is a case of burnout or taking time to adapt following his extended break, it is clear Sancho is not quite up to speed yet.
He went straight from the 2020-21 campaign into Euro 2020 and England’s run to the final was energy-sapping both physically and mentally, having missed in the penalty shootout in the final against Italy.
It also appears that Solskjaer is yet to find the best role for Sancho. Although he is predominantly a right-footed, he enjoys cutting in from the left and floating around the final third.
Jadon Sancho is yet to score or assist for Man Utd this season Deploying him on the right-hand side, where Mason Greenwood has thrived, appears to be counter-intuitive, but with Paul Pogba’s excellent start to the season, the left-winger role is not currently up for grabs.
Perhaps Solskjaer needs to be more patient with his substitutions. After all, 14 of Sancho’s 17 Bundesliga goals in the 2019-20 campaign were scored in the second half of matches – along with 12 of his assists.
Sancho is still a young player with tremendous talent and with a big future for club and country. There is no reason to panic.
As shown at his previous club, with time and patience, he will produce the goods for Man United for years to come.
Read More Read More