Stardust-sprinkled Sancho could be a €85m steal for Solskjaer

Signing of south Londoner (21) sends out a signal United is serious about title challenge


Jadon Sancho is a €85 million signing who may go down as a steal as his Manchester United career unfolds. Even before the former Borussia Dortmund forward pulls on the United shirt, his price appears akin to a Black Friday buy. For €9 million more than a centre back, Rúben Dias, cost Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjær acquires a 21-year-old who joins Mason Greenwood as a “generational” footballer who can light up the attack for a decade. If Sancho is integral to a 21st title for United, it will cast the fee as more apt with a decimal point between its digits.

This, remember, is a club that can claw back millions on a transfer via image rights and myriad global commercial tie-ups. If Paul Pogba is the current billboard player, his successor just joined. If the asking price for Harry Kane, who is six years older, is north of €175 million, then Sancho’s acquisition is slick work by Ed Woodward.

What the executive vice-chairman achieves in signing Sancho is to elevate Solskjær’s side while enhancing the United glamour factor, because the lad from south London’s goal- and assist-rich displays come sprinkled with stardust. For the sole English club whose allure has them in the club Hollywood bracket with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, his arrival is a statement that the world’s finest young talents with their best years ahead can and do choose United.

In the summers when a knee troubled Bastian Schweinsteiger or the underwhelming Daley Blind arrived, recruiting a player like Sancho seemed a universe away. Now he joins a side boasting Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford.

Walked away

Sancho was, of course, supposed to be in a United shirt last season. Instead, the transfer broke down after United priced it at the thick end of €250 million and walked away, with Solskjær still able to guide his team to second place, one better than the previous season. What Sancho brings is a pedigree that shows: inclusion in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Bundesliga team of the year, 38 goals in 104 appearances in that competition, and 51 assists.

In the Champions League the numbers read five goals in 21 games, with six assists. To create a league goal every other outing and approximately one every third time he faces the continent’s cream is impressive for a footballer who walks through the Old Trafford door for a little less than the £85 million United paid for Romelu Lukaku in July 2017. This stressing again of Sancho’s price must come with the caveat that the market has dipped markedly because of the pandemic. Yet whatever the cost, he is a pointless investment should United fail to strengthen more as they strive to catch reigning champions Manchester City, whose own improvement-quest takes in the pursuit of Harry Kane, the Premier League Golden Boot winner, and Jack Grealish, who may be England’s most talented player.

Last season United scored 73 times in the league – 10 fewer than City, who are heralded as attack masters. Goals, goals, goals and more goals is the United way, too – a credo of which Solskjær, a former striker of the Sir Alex Ferguson school, is an apt custodian. To trail 10 behind a garlanded City suggests the forward end of the side is not the weak part.

Not quite. Scan the final 2020-21 table and United’s goals-against column reads 44, far poorer than City’s 32, which was the lowest, and worse than Liverpool (42), Arsenal (39) and Chelsea (36).

Goals scored

Although in goals scored they were second only to City – Liverpool, Leicester City and Tottenham (all 68) were the next best – the draws show 11 for Solskjær’s men and five for Pep Guardiola’s.

This indicates how the adjustment of the odd strike at either end is required: one fewer at the back or one more at the front. Sancho’s acquisition should address the latter, but if Villarreal’s Pau Torres, Real Madrid’s Raphaël Varane or AN Other centre-back is not added, then a Maguire-Victor Lindelöf axis susceptible to speed should be as exposed as United’s title pretensions.

Yet even a Torres or Varane may not be enough, as United’s midfield is as short of artistry as City’s is oversubscribed.

But Sancho is a start. He is slick business done relatively early in the market and sends a strong signal: that this is an arrival that not only improves the team but can also be a gateway signing for other A-list recruits United need to make a sustained title challenge.

Tottenham have given a new four-year contract to Son Heung-min and maintain they have no plans to sell Harry Kane.

Son has signed a deal that is due to extend his stay at Spurs to 10 years. The 29-year-old, who joined from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015, has scored 107 goals in 280 games and formed a lethal partnership with Kane.

“The club have showed me massive, massive respect and obviously I’m very happy to be here,” the South Korea forward said. “It’s like home, especially with the fans, the players, the staff. There was no decision. It was easy.” - Guardian

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