After over a year of value of reports, rumors and the deal this close to completion is Jadon Sancho finally is ready to join Manchester United.
We agree on a principle agreement for the transfer of Jadon Sancho to United! 🔴⚪⚫#MUFC
– Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 1, 2021
The English winger has reportedly signed a contract that will keep him in Manchester until 2026 with the option to extend another year.
Borussia Dortmund say they will receive € 85 million for his transfer (although about 15% of that will go back to Manchester as City had inserted a clause in his Dortmund to receive part of his transfer fee).
The 21-year-old forward’s youth career began at Watford, but he switched to City at the age of 14.
He continued to impress in their academy and was set to take part in the senior squad in 2017, but a contractual dispute relevant to playing time saw him try to look for a move away and Dortmund landed him eventually.
After having nearly 130 appearances and lifting the DFB Pokal to BVB this year, Sancho will now join the former rivals from his former club by switching to the red side of Manchester.
Gareth Southgate may not have a BT Sport subscription to watch the Bundesliga last season, but luckily we did, so here’s our analysis of Sancho:
Sancho is a versatile right-footed striker capable of playing on both sides, as he demonstrated at Borussia Dortmund last season.
It is clear that the Englishman has been used as a winger more often than not, especially on the right.
His short stints in a more central role can be explained by Lucien Favre’s attempts to play a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-2-1 early in the season, but since Edin Terzić took over, he was almost exclusively used widely in its natural position.
As for his style of play, let’s hear about it from the man himself:
I want to call myself a street football player, this is where I learned my tricks and through football I looked at the big players, I think it really helped me.
Sancho has been branded as one of the brightest young talents in world football for over a year now and it’s easy to see why.
Although he would still be eligible to play the next edition of Under-21 Euro in 2023, the Englishman has established himself as one of the most elite wingers in world football, and his numbers support that.
Creativity is Sancho’s biggest forte, as the pizza chart above shows. His assists may be slightly bloated thanks to the presence of Erling Braut Haaland, but his very high xA (expected assists) indicates that he can operate at a constant high level.
His creation of shots (both in terms of SCA and key passes) is unusual, while his productive dribbling shows that he has the ability to switch games on his own.
However, that is not to say that Sancho is a chatter in terms of goal scoring. He netted 16 times in all competitions for Dortmund last season, while his xG overtime of just 0.6 in the Bundesliga 2020/21 shows that his finish is very sustainable.
This is partly because Sancho gets in good positions inside the field, as his goal scoring zones indicate:
In about four Bundesliga seasons (where he played 104 appearances), Sancho has scored 38 goals and assisted 45 others, which includes back-to-back seasons with 26 and 33 goal-scoring appearances, respectively.
It should be noted that he outperformed his xG and xA numbers with a combined 26.1 in these two campaigns, so it would not be wise to expect similar levels of performances.
His average of 0.83 goals and assists per. 90 in the last league season is much more realistic, and it’s nothing to spot either.
Moving on to what is perhaps the most attractive part of Sancho’s game – his dribbling – we get to see even more world-class figures from the recent Bundesliga season, including an average of 7.11 dribbles attempted and 0.7 nutmeg is no better way to beat a defender than complete humiliation), both per. 90.
Rather surprisingly, the Englishman’s dribble success has been very low at 55.8%, but it may well be a reflection of the risks he takes with the ball at his feet.
Finally, Sancho is brilliant at getting on with the ball – something that United often struggle to do.
He can do it both through passing and with the ball at his feet, as reflected in his statistics.
Last season’s average of 6.46 progressive passes per. 90 are incredibly high for a winger, while 61.63 carries and 10.43 forward passes per. 90 is very promising, so he will hopefully reduce some of the ball progression burdens from Bruno Fernandes.
Even though he’s just 21 years old, it’s hard to find too many flaws in Sancho’s game, as evidenced by his incredible number across almost all of the relevant attack metrics we’ve seen above.
But if there is one area where the Englishman might need to do a little more work, it is his defensive contribution.
His average of 11.13 pressure per. 90 ranked him as low as the eighth percentile in last season’s Bundesliga compared to other wingers and attacking midfielders, while 1.31 tackles and wickets per. 90 does not give anything good reading also.
He is also not the highest among men, which should explain his success rate on air duel of 18.5% in the Bundesliga last season.
Part of this is to blame Dortmund’s defensive system, so there’s nothing to say that Sancho will not adapt to United’s defensive style – especially since it’s not one of the more pressing.
Roll in Manchester United
It doesn’t really take a genius to figure this out, but Sancho is set to bolster United’s wide attacking potential.
Assuming Manchester United continue to operate in a 4-2-3-1 (which certainly seems very likely), Sancho is expected to establish himself as a first-choice right-winger, while also being able to record for left if necessary.
Looking back on his season at Dortmund, it is clear that the Englishman is used to playing on the right flank, so everything works fine on paper.
A closer look at his goal contribution, however, leads to a surprising deduction – although the 21-year-old winger started 17 Bundesliga games on the right and only nine on the left, he collected 10 goal contributions from the latter, while falling fewer on the right.
In essence, Sancho has been twice as productive on the left flank this season than he has been on the right.
This observation certainly requires deeper research, and that’s what we get from his entire Bundesliga career:
In the end, Sancho has been marginally more effective from the right flank, but that is almost exclusively due to a very right-wing 2018/19 campaign, as the left wing has proven to be more productive for him in all the other three seasons.
The 2017/18 season is too small and Sancho was pretty much only used on the right in 2018/19, so what has changed since then?
His time on both flanks was almost evenly distributed in 2019/20, but it is 2020/21 that is the really confusing one because he spent twice as much time on the right to get fewer goals and assists.
One explanation for this pattern may lie in the back-to-back behind Sancho these seasons.
In 2018/19, BVB primarily used a back-four with Achraf Hakimi as a right-footed left-back, while Sancho as mentioned was only used as a right-hander, so all his goals came surprisingly from that side.
Then, in 2019/20, Lucien Favre used a 3-4-3 with Hakimi and Raphaël Guerreiro as wing-back, which explains a more even gap in Sancho’s goal.
Before the 2020/21 season, Hakaimi’s loan deal expired, so Dortmund were looking for a new right-back.
Thomas Meunier, a more defensive back, was signed to replace Hakimi, but injuries meant Mateu Morey, Łukasz Piszczek or even Emre Can were used in this position, so Sancho could not really form a partnership with anyone.
Meanwhile, Guerreiro continued to the left, so this is where the goals flow from.
So if our conclusion from this case study is that a strong partnership with an attacking back-up is the key to Sancho’s excellence, this could be an area of concern for United.
If they predominantly plan to use him as a right winger, they may not get the desired results because Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s offensive production is very much on the bottom side as far as right back goes.
Meanwhile, the 21-year-old winger could form an excellent pair with Luke Shaw on the left, but the Red Devils really do not need another left-winger at the moment.
When one keeps all talk of wings and back-back aside, there is no doubt that Sancho is simply a unique football player and he has the ability to make almost any team on this planet better.
Therefore, to consider him as a significantly lower fee than what Dortmund asked for last summer should be considered a great success from a financial and sporting perspective for United.
There will certainly be questions about how he will be used and whether Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be able to maximize his potential, but even a 70% Jadon Sancho can greatly improve the right wing of the Red Devils.
On that basis, it will be quite difficult to use him in a way that is objectively incorrect (unless he is used as a defensive midfielder – the situation is not so gloomy yet).
In all circumstances fans who want to watch good football must be incredibly excited about this signature because United bring a player who is not just one of England‘s but also one of the world’s most talented wingers to Premier League.