Manchester United have been pursuing Jadon Sancho for months, and are closing in on finally securing his signature ahead of the 2020/21 season.
The Red Devils have taken a step closer to making the move happen, with a Borussia Dortmund-imposed deadline of August 10 looming to get a deal done and dusted.
United’s mightily impressive form following lockdown and the top flight’s restart saw them eat away at Leicester’s eight-point advantage and book their place in the Champions League on the final day of the season – despite recording their worst ever start to a Premier League campaign nine games in.
The January arrival of Bruno Fernandes proved the catalyst for a huge upturn in fortunes at Old Trafford, and the front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were in particularly devastating form.
Rashford and Martial found the net 44 times between them in all competitions, while half of Greenwood’s 10 top flight goals came in the final seven games of the season.
The performances of United’s front three towards the back end of the campaign began to beg the questions: do the Red Devils actually need to buy Jadon Sancho? And will his purchase stunt the development of Greenwood?
Firstly, Sancho is obviously ridiculously talented and one of the most exciting young players in European football right now.
He has scored 33 goals and provided 39 assists over the course of the last two seasons for one of the top clubs in Europe, in a foreign country at the age of just 20, which demonstrates both incredible ability and maturity. There is no question United should be in the market for a player of his class.
Additionally, United cannot rely on their esteemed front three for a full 50-odd games during the 2020/21 season. While they were able to rest players in the Europa League this year, they will likely not have the luxury of blooding fresh-legged youngsters in the Champions League if they are to progress past the group stages.
United’s lack of squad depth was highlighted towards the end of the season, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was effectively forced to choose between FA Cup success and Champions League qualification.
The United boss plumped for the Champions League, with Paul Pogba, Martial and Greenwood all rested for the FA Cup semi final defeat to Chelsea.
Even against 10-man Norwich in the previous round, an under strength United laboured to a 2-1 victory, with Solskjaer forced to introduce Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial and Greenwood from the bench to eventually break the Canaries resistance.
The Red Devils ultimately made the Champions League partly due to their exceptional post-lockdown form, but also partly because Leicester’s lack of strength in depth caused them to drop points during the hectic Christmas period, and their form slumped catastrophically in the final weeks of the season due to injuries to James Maddison, Ben Chillwell and Ricardo Pereira, in addition to Çağlar Söyüncü’s suspension.
Likewise, Wolves got off to a slow start to the season as their relatively small squad failed to balance the demands of the Premier League and the Europa League. This demonstrates just how vital it is to assemble a strong squad, and not just a starting XI.
Adding further world class quality to an already sensational front three is not only no bad thing, but arguably a necessity if United are to successfully compete on multiple fronts next season.
Rivals Manchester City currently enjoy such strength in depth that they were able to have a friendly amongst themselves in the build up to the season’s resumption. This is the calibre of team United are competing against.
The addition of Sancho will not only add another dimension of class and creativity to United’s attack, but will help to lighten the load on their already talented front three.
Rashford risked missing the rest of the season after suffering a double back fracture against Wolves in the FA Cup because Solskjaer was effectively forced to introduce him because United were running out of options. Signing Sancho will not restrict Rashford, but it will stop the Red Devils’ reliance on him.
Likewise, Greenwood will not be stifled. Rather, he should thrive off the added competition and will benefit from not relentlessly playing three games per week while he is still a teenager.
The versatility of Sancho, Greenwood, Martial and Rashford will help United build a fluid, exciting and potentially irresistible forward line. When has having too much quality ever been a bad thing?