Manchester United may not have won the Premier League (nor the Europa League) in 2020-21, but their season will still go down as a resounding success. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has sparked new life into the team since taking over from Jose Mourinho in 2018, and now the club are making active strides in the transfer market to turn their fortunes around and challenge for the Premier League title again. The signing of Jadon Sancho brings a world class winger to Old Trafford, and one with the longevity still left in his career to become an all-time United great. Raphael Varane and Ruben Neves are also reportedly inching for a move to Solskjaer’s team, which would bring two more top quality players into the mix and give United more strength in depth. So ahead of the 2021-22 season, we take a look at how Manchester United could potentially challenge for the Premier League title, with a special focus on Jadon Sancho and how he’ll fit into the team.
For fans of the game who don’t watch much of the Bundesliga, it cannot be understated just how talented Jadon Sancho is. Very few footballers on earth have a more supreme dribbling ability than the speedy trickster, and very few have a better eye for a pass. In his three seasons as a Dortmund regular (excluding his first season as a 17-year-old), Sancho scored 37 goals with 41 assists in 92 Bundesliga appearances. That equates to a goal contribution in 86% of his league matches over the course of three seasons. While the Premier League may be a different animal, Manchester United are an excellent fit for the 21-year-old.
Why? Sancho is exceptional on the counter. Manchester United are a counter attacking team. Sancho is exceptional in tight spaces. Premier League defenses rarely have room to breathe, and those who strike fear into the opposition in that regard like Grealish, Zaha and Son, always tend to succeed in being one of, if not the most important player for their teams. His delivery and assist-making ability is also of the highest quality, which should benefit the big target man Edinson Cavani, or Mason Greenwood’s natural finishing ability greatly.
While Sancho achieved remarkable heights in a possession-based Borussia Dortmund, many of his best moments at the club always came in attacking transitions. His mobility in behind an opposition defense, matched with his incredible hunger to beat every player who comes into his wake, makes him an almost unstoppable player in these moments. This is why Sancho could even perhaps be a better fit for United, on paper anyway, than the possession-based Dortmund.
Another massive benefit to Sancho is that he is remarkably good at linking up with fullbacks. The way he speeds up and slows down his tricks with absolute ease, allows fullbacks to make varying underlapping or overlapping runs around him, and easily create wide overloads for his team. While Sancho is likely to feature more on the right for United so that Rashford can continue on the left, Ole should definitely consider playing the 21-year-old on that left wing. There’s a serious argument that the best partnership in the whole of the Bundesliga over the past three seasons has been Sancho’s relationship with left-back Raphael Guerreiro. Luke Shaw and Raphael Guerreiro have so many similar qualities. They are both exceptional at finding space, delivering crosses, driving forward with or without the ball, and both have an eye for goal. Sancho and Shaw would almost undeniably link up to great success down the left side, and Rashford would be completely fine to switch to the right, and continue his personal success.
But Manchester United are not going to win the Premier League title with just Sancho pulling the strings. Rashford and Bruno Fernandes both ended their hard-hitting season full of fatigue, and struggled to perform to any level at the Euros. The indestructible Harry Maguire played so many matches that even he succumbed to injury, while the likes of Fred, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay in midfield have all had a busy summer. If United are to win the title, everyone is going to need to be on top of their game. Bruno might not have so much of the weight on his shoulders now that Sancho is in the team, but another Premier League Player of the Year type of performance will likely be needed from the Portuguese playmaker if United are to claim glory. While Ruben Neves might not be a step up from McTominay or Fred, he will offer an additional option for squad rotation and in-game-management. The same could be said in the Varane-Lindelof debate, as the Frenchman’s transfer would take the pressure off Maguire and the Swede to be fit every single game. The new players coming into the mix are all very familiar with the style of play Manchester United deploy, and would likely excel, even if not transform the team. So with that, Manchester United have every chance of winning the Premier League title in 2021-22. But it will require the likes of Sancho, Bruno and more to be absolutely on top of their game. Whatever happens, we are incredibly excited to see Jadon Sancho in the Premier League, and will be there to break it all down with our match, team and manager analyses! Thanks for reading and see you soon.
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