Manchester United signed English winger Jadon Sancho in the summer of 2021. The English speedster joined the Red Devils for a reported fee of around 85 million euros.
Since then, Sancho has made a slow start to life in England before beginning to find his feet under Ralf Rangnick. The winger has 4 goals and 2 assists in all competitions this season.
Here is how Sancho has fitted into the Manchester United set-up:
Sancho has largely been utilized as a left-winger but occasionally down the right flank too. His function on either flank has largely been the same. Ralf Rangnick has preferred to use inverted wingers and overlapping full-backs. In games, Shaw and Telles hold width for the team, allowing Sancho to drift inwards with the ball.
In the first phase of build-up, United’s full-backs remain relatively deeper and narrower to provide the center-backs with additional passing options. In such scenarios, Sancho remains higher and wider up the field, allowing the Red Devils to vertically stretch the opposition.
However, United’s interiors, Bruno in particular, often drop deeper to support the build-up. To occupy the spaces vacated in the centre, Sancho and Rashford drop into the half-spaces.
This serves a dual function as it prevents the opposition defence from executing a higher line. Sancho possesses the speed to make runs behind the defensive line to directly attack the opposition goal.
Higher up the field, opponents often set up in a passive low-block. The aim is to cut off build-up centrally, and cover spaces in and around the box. This results in the creation of space in the wider areas of the field, allowing Sancho to drop out wider to collect the ball, or make angled runs into the box.
Comparisons to Borussia Dortmund: Unrealistic and Unfair?
Sancho arguably has been less influential at the Old Trafford than at the Signal Iduna. This is partially down to the player’s own struggle for form and consistency since making the big money transfer. However, the differences in the team set-up and the style of the leagues also play a large role in determining Sancho’s influence in the game.
The Bundesliga is a more open league as compared to the Premier League. Teams set up in a higher press with a higher line of defence. This allows the forwards more space to run in behind the defences.
Bundesliga also averages less shots per game but more goals per game than the Premier League.
Also, Dortmund was a team that averaged more possession on average than the Red Devils. (59.8-54.1)
So, Sancho’s overall game involvement has reduced since joining the Red Devils. His goal-scoring and creating numbers have also taken a hit due to the drastic change in environment.
Shooting & Creativity:
Sancho isn’t a player who takes too many shots. His shots come from an average distance of just over 14 yards from goal. However, the 21-year-old is a world-class creator. Sancho can create shots for his teammates or for himself with his ability on the ball equally well.
Possession & Progressions:
Sancho is an excellent progressive outlet for the United team. He often drops deeper to receive and recycle possession. Sancho does not attempt too many ambitious long passes, but rather is a safe option in the build-up phase. He is also an excellent dribbler. This provides United with an additional method of progressing the ball.
An area where Sancho does have room for improvement. The Englishman is often a part of United’s second line of pressure behind the forwards. However, the 21-year-old could contribute more when the side lose possession, be it falling back to cover spaces or pressurizing the ball-player to immediately regain possession.
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After a sluggish start, Sancho has slowly begun to get into his groove at Manchester United. The Englishman has been an integral part of interim manager Rangnick’s plans. Manchester United have been linked to the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Haag, both managers who have systems reliant on wingers.
With Cristiano Ronaldo ageing and Edinson Cavani poised to leave, the Red Devis could look to build their frontline around Sancho for the future.
What are your thoughts on Jadon Sancho at United? How could his role be altered to maximize his potential? Let us know in the comments.
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