What The Jadon Sancho Saga Says About Manchester United

Borussia Dortmund insists that Jadon Sancho is staying at the club this summer, and won’t be sold to Manchester United under any circumstances. The press believes that isn’t the case, and the move will eventually go through at some point in the next few weeks. If there’s a dramatic turnaround in the state of negotiations, it might even have gone through by the time you read this article – although that seems unlikely at the moment. Some ‘in the know’ journalists have claimed that the player has agreed personal terms with Manchester United and wants to play for them, and all that’s left to resolve is the issue of the fee. Given the amount that the German club are believed to want for their young star, the fee isn’t a small issue to resolve.

The fee that Dortmund wants for Sancho varies a little depending on who you listen to, with figures as high as £117m being reported by some sources. Even the lower estimates come in at over one hundred million pounds. That’s an enormous amount even for a club with Manchester United’s resources and surely represents the majority of, if not all of, their summer transfer budget. Fans can argue all they like about whether teams should be spending so much money in light of the current global financial predicament, or whether the player is overpriced, but the bottom line is that he’s Dortmund’s player and they don’t have to sell him if they don’t want to. If Manchester United want to get their man, they’re eventually going to have to come up with the cash.

We’ve been here before with Manchester United and protracted transfer negotiations. It’s been an all-too-predictable issue throughout Ed Woodward’s tenure as the club’s chief executive. Who can forget the summer that he allegedly promised David Moyes that he’d bring Gareth Bale to the club, only to instead sign Marouane Fellaini for a vastly inflated price on the final day of the transfer window instead? History tells us that with Woodward in charge of transfer negotiations, United will dither and then overpay when they could probably have got the deal done faster and at a lower price if they’d gone into talks with a better strategy. This isn’t an article about United’s increasingly poor negotiation strategy, though; it’s an article about their seemingly dire transfer strategy as a whole.

The Manchester United that starts next season will be a very different animal to the Manchester United that started last season when it comes to attacking options. Marcus Rashford is still developing, but he’s a potent threat in front of goal. Anthony Martial has found his striking boots and is using them to good effect. Mason Greenwood is maturing rapidly and looks like one of the most exciting English talents to emerge in the game in years. Odion Ighalo will still be there on the bench to act as a backup striker when needed, and behind the orthodox forwards, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba will be there to provide assists and attacking quality. Manchester United’s forward line is already terrifying. Jadon Sancho would be a fine addition, but the team does not, in all honesty, need him.

Contrast that fact with the situation at the other end of the field, where Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea looks like a pale imitation of the player he once was, and Eric Bailly is too injury prone to be relied upon as defensive cover for Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a solid and dependable right back, but Luke Shaw still flatters to deceive on the other flank. Nemanja Matic is slowing down as he gets older, and Scott McTominay has little to no cover. It doesn’t take a football expert to see that if Manchester United has one hundred million pounds to spend, the club ought to be spending it on shoring up its defense. That might not be as glamorous or eye-catching as securing the services of a high-profile, world-renowned winger, but a better defense is the key to the team improving on their third-place finish last season. It will also likely be the difference between the club having a strong showing in the Champions’ League, or bowing out of the competition early.

What Manchester United and Ed Woodward sometimes seem to forget is that star players aren’t worth a thing if they don’t fit into a team’s line-up. Think of it like the symbols on the reels of an  Online Slots UK. You could spin the reels and land four or five of the most valuable symbols at the same time, but the online slots game won’t pay you a single penny unless those symbols land in the correct order. Having them appear isn’t enough; you have to assemble them in the right formation. A football club has far more control over that than someone playing games at an online slots website, and yet in Manchester United’s case, they appear to fail to take advantage of that fact time and time again.

Think of some of the players who have come and gone from Manchester United in recent years. Angel di Maria was brought in at enormous expense and barely lasted a full season before being sold to Paris Saint Germain at a loss. Vast sums of money were spent on a loan deal for Radamel Falcao, who scored a sum total of four goals in a dire season. Alexis Sanchez was acquired at great cost and paid an astonishing weekly wage, but didn’t appear to be the same player he was at Arsenal. All of them were star names. None of them fit Manchester United’s way of playing and weren’t the required pieces to solve the puzzle that the team was struggling with at the time. This long, costly pursuit of Sancho might be another example of the same bad idea, regardless of whether the player eventually makes the move or not.

Worryingly for Manchester United fans, the club appears to have put all of its other transfer business on hold while Woodward focuses on trying to reel Sancho in. Based on his past form, by the time he gets the deal over the line, it will be too late for the club to go looking for anyone else, and last season’s defensive weaknesses will still be horribly apparent when the season begins. Manchester United will definitely score a lot of goals next season, but they’re likely to concede just as many if this problem can’t be solved.