The 21-year-old was signed amid huge fanfare from the Manchester United faithful but has struggled to adjust to life at Old Trafford since returning to England from Germany
Jadon Sancho was the subject of one of the longest running transfer sagas in recent memory when Manchester United spent the best part of nearly three windows pursuing the winger while at Borussia Dortmund.
Finally, the summer of 2021 saw United finally get their man when they agreed a £73m fee with the German giants to bring Sancho back to Manchester for the first time since he left the Red Devils’ rivals and ‘noisy neighbours’ Man City.
It sparked huge excitement from the Old Trafford faithful, who thought with Sancho playing alongside fellow summer additions Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane a title tilt was finally on its way.
Fast forward six months and the manager who brought all three to the club in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been sacked while United languish as low as seventh in the table, 21 points adrift from league-leaders City.
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But how has Sancho fared amid all of this? Well, his fortunes have reflected those of the club as a whole, drastically underwhelming with the occasional glimmer of brilliance.
While rival fans from far and wide have used his dismal Premier League record of one goal and zero assists in 17 outings as a chance to ridicule both the player and the club, it is important to note Sancho’s failings are not entirely down to him.
Of course the England international must take some responsibility for allowing the first half of the season to pass him by, but there are other factors at play.
The first of which simply being United’s mismanagement at just about every level.
The club handed Solskjaer a three-year contract extension in the summer while morale was sky high and talk of a 21st league title was rife.
By the time mid-November rolled around, Solskjaer was dismissed after his final eight games included a 5-0 humiliation at home by Liverpool and another Old Trafford loss at the hands of rivals City.
Before the Norwegian was axed, he struggled to find Sancho a nailed-on starting spot in one position.
The winger was forced to operate on both the left and right flanks, while at his lowest point in a United shirt there was talk of Sancho potentially being deployed as a full-back.
It would have been quite the fall from grace for a player who was such an effective creator in Germany.
Sancho still boasts the record for the first and youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 assists in less than 100 games – yet he has zero in the Premier League.
Someone who has plied his trade in both the Bundesliga and the Premier League has expressed their sympathy with Sancho in the form of ex-Bayern Munich and Spurs striker Jurgen Klinsmann.
“It’s a different type of challenge, it’s a different environment because again we go back to the squad and it needs to fit you, it needs to give you the chance to get your playing time,” the ex-German international told Mirror Football.
“There are so many little pieces that play a role, the competition within the team is a different one at Man United than it is at Dortmund.
“How confident are you at the end of the day to push the other players to the side and to break through to make it clear to your manager that you are the one that needs to play every time from the beginning?”
Klinsmann’s comments make for interesting reading coming so shortly after Sancho’s manager Ralf Rangnick appeared to suggest the player was short of confidence and suffering from mentality issues.
“Now he’s 21, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. I think it’s also got to do with a lot of the things up here, in his head,” United’s interim boss explained.
“Now it’s about the transfer to when he’s playing, showing the same kind of level and performance on the pitch.
“Everyone expected from him that he would be one of the best players in the team. This is psychologically and emotionally, a more challenging situation than the one at Borussia Dortmund.
“But these are exactly the kind of steps that he has to make to become a top player for the next 10 years at this club.”
The Times actually reported soon after that Sancho’s team of representatives did not appreciate Rangnick publicly implying that the winger’s poor form stems from mental factors.
In reality, it is more likely to boil down to the aforementioned reasons surrounding the regular positional shifts in and change in manager, as well as Sancho potentially being one of many United players currently overshadowed by Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s return saw a tactical shift under Solskjaer that seemed to accommodate only Ronaldo.
Sancho has scored just one goal in all competitions when sharing a pitch with the Portugal skipper, while his only league goal came against Chelsea when Ronaldo was benched.
Klinsmann went on to highlight the kind of questions Sancho needs to ask himself if he is to recapture the kind of form he displayed at the Signal Iduna Park.
“There is a completely different situation now that he has in England than the one he had in Dortmund, ‘Am I at the right place, at the right time, with my own personal contribution?’” he pondered.
“He has a very tough environment there and I hope that he breaks through but the competition there in his slot – it’s huge, it’s very difficult.”
Sancho’s United contract sees him tied to the club until the summer of 2026, ensuring he has plenty of time to turn things around.
But as Klinsmann alluded to, confidence is key when operating at the highest level and Sancho needs to find his and fast.
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