Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been using Jadon Sancho in an unconventional role during training sessions since his switch to a three-man central defence
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Jadon Sancho could be forced to settle for a deeper role at Manchester United if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer persists with the conservative system he is trialling in training.
Solskjaer has reverted to a three-man central defence since Liverpool hammered five goals past his side in late October.
A 3-5-2 formation worked well as United won 3-0 at Tottenham Hotspur in their next Premier League game, but a 2-2 draw at Atalanta and 2-0 home defeat by Manchester City proved the set-up still needs plenty of work.
The Red Devils were woeful defensively against their local rivals, with Eric Bailly scoring an own-goal and Bernardo Silva uncontested at the back post as he doubled the lead.
They were also toothless on the front foot and managed just one shot on target, a speculative volley by Cristiano Ronaldo.
And, for large parts of all those matches, the back three became a back five as they struggled to dominate possession.
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Jadon Sancho has been lining up at wing-back during recent training sessions Paul Scholes highlighted United’s issues down the right flank while delivering a withering verdict on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has brilliant one-versus-one defensive ability, but often underwhelms with his delivery from wide areas.
“I said before the 3-5-2 doesn’t suit the players in the team,” Scholes told Premier League Productions . “Wan-Bissaka is useless on the ball – brilliant defender but useless on the ball at right-back.
“Three centre-halves today, none of them that good on the ball.
“Ole has got to find a way… There’s a squad of players there that could be okay.”
Now, in his quest to find a winning formula comes fresh claims that Solskjaer has been attempting to strike the right balance between defence and attack by toying with a positional change for Sancho at United’s Carrington base.
The England international is a natural winger, but he has been working as a wing-back in place of Wan-Bissaka during recent training sessions, as first reported by The Athletic .
It is believed Solskjaer could use the creative 21-year-old in this role against teams lower in the table who are likely to use a deep block and won’t look to dominate possession against United.
Certainly this would be a major surprise given Sancho’s vast quality going forward and inexperience in a defensive capacity, with Sancho having never – at United, former club Borussia Dortmund, or with England – having never lined up as a wing-back before.
Sancho has had a difficult time in Manchester so far United pursued Sancho for two years before finally striking a £73million deal with Borussia Dortmund this summer following his 16-goal and 20-assist season in Germany.
A wing-back role hardly seems the optimum route to kick-start his Old Trafford career after a challenging start during which he has failed to produce a single goal involvement.
Interestingly, Sancho excelled for Dortmund in a three-at-the-back system – but as an inside forward rather than a wing-back in a 3-4-3 set-up.
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The former Manchester City academy star regularly operated close to centre-forward Erling Haaland under former manager Lucien Favre, while Achraf Hakimi/Thomas Meunier and Raphael Guerreiro occupied the flanks.
Duly, it saw Sancho flourish as an attacking force, with his partnership with Haaland notably playing a key role in Dortmund’s German Cup triumph last term.
Sancho has not been used in this role at United due to the constant presence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes in central areas, while Edinson Cavani has recently started in attack when Solskjaer has been desperate for a result.
Further, competition with Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford out wide means he has started just one Premier League game in almost two months.
Yet while fitness and injury issues have played a part in his somewhat slow start to life at Old Trafford, it is a damning indictment of the club’s management that no real plan seems to have been truly put in place for how and where Sancho would be used.
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