After two transfer markets linked with Jadon Sancho, Man United finally brought their long-term target to Old Trafford this summer.
Sancho finalised his £73 million move from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in July. He arrives in Manchester with big potential and expectations from the club following four impressive seasons in Germany and after representing England at the international level.
However, despite playing top-level German football and having Champions League pedigree, this will be Sancho’s first test in the Premier League. He provides an added threat to United’s attack and greater squad depth, but can he improve United’s title chances this season?
Will Sancho Improve United’s Team?
Sancho displayed a clear attacking threat during his four years at Dortmund, where he scored 50 goals and making 64 assists in 137 appearances. He will join an impressive United attack, linking up with creative midfielder Bruno Fernandes and forwards Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.
The 21-year-old will provide greater depth for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to rely upon in attack and bolster his options, which could prove the difference between a mediocre and a successful season. United had various spells last season where the goals dried up, particularly away from home. During the middle of the season, the Red Devils had a run of five 0-0 results in nine away matches that saw them lost plenty of ground in the title race.
This lack of attacking threat away has also been highlighted again early in the 2021/22 season. After an emphatic 5-1 home win against Leeds, United drew 1-1 away at Southampton on Sunday. The Red Devils came back from a goal down to rescue a point, but they struggled to use their possession to good effect and rarely threatened the Saints.
Dropped points such as these contributed to Man City’s eventual 12-point gap at the top of the Premier League last season. Sancho came on as a second-half substitute against Southampton but rarely threatened in a tense match. If Sancho can quickly settle in and reclaim the form he showed at Dortmund, he could provide the missing element of United’s attack.
Although Sancho is only 21-years old, there is already pressure on him to produce straight away at United, stacking the Football Odds against him as he comes with a hefty price tag which fans will demand top performances from. His contributions for Dortmund bring plenty of expectation to Old Trafford, and his 22 caps for England show he is capable of performing at the top level.
However, Sancho will need time to adapt to Premier League football. He has never played in the Premier League before and will need time to adapt to a new league and a new system under Solskjær. It is unlikely that Sancho will produce goals and assists immediately in the Premier League and United may rely heavily on Fernandes, Greenwood and Cavani for goals early in the season.
Man United may not see the best of Sancho for the first few months of the season. Patience will be important, as he could eventually adapt and become one of United’s key players later in the season.
His cohesion with the squad will also be helped by his England experience. Sancho has already played with Rashford, Greenwood, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Dean Henderson whilst representing his country, which will help during the early stages of his Man City career.
Can Sancho Help United Challenge City for the Title?
Sancho has the potential to develop into United’s match-winner and to become a key first-team player. However, the club cannot lean on their marquee signing of the 2021/22 season to produce miracles, score 20 goals and lead United to their first Premier League title since 2013.
What the 21-year-old does provide is greater squad depth for United to compete on all fronts this season. Fixture pile-up in the 2020/21 campaign led to Solskjær fielding a team of under-23 players against Leicester in the FA Cup; a match they lost to focus on the Europa League and Premier League.
With greater attacking options this season, Solskjær will also have more choices from the bench in those tight games that United couldn’t see off last season. This is where Sancho is likely to feature during the early stages of the season, as he was used against Southampton last weekend.
However, to bridge the 12-point gap between City and United at the top of the table last year, the Red Devils may have benefitted from signing a proven Premier League goal scorer. Title rivals Man City outlaid on Jack Grealish, who has two seasons of proven experience at Villa, and Chelsea brought in ex-striker Romelu Lukaku, who already has over 100 Premier League goals.
By signing a Premier League prospect like Sancho, United have taken a risk. He will need time to get up to speed and is unlikely to impact the title race this season, whereas Lukaku and Grealish may be influential for Chelsea and City respectively.