What can we expect from Sancho at United?
New Manchester United signing Jadon Sancho is one of the most exciting young English footballers around.
So what better way to find out what to expect from the Reds’ new star than to catch up with a United fan that has watched Sancho closely since he joined Dortmund way back in 2017?
We caught up with freelance football journalist (and MUFC regular) Matt Ford, who is an expert on German football, to do just that…
Hi Matt, you’re a Red that watches the Bundesliga in a professional capacity week in, week out – what kind of player are United getting?
“Well, I’ve watched him for four years, pretty much. I've seen him up close on dozens of occasions over the past few years, and he’s an absolutely outstanding little player. Anyone can look up his stats – his goals and his assists speak for themselves. In his last three full seasons, he's got 12 goals, followed by 17, followed by eight, and assists stats to match. He's ridiculous. He's penetrative, he's tricky, he's individualistic. He's got fantastic control, he doesn't lose it often, and he regularly makes the difference.
“If you look at last season, he was one of the main reasons Dortmund managed to rescue themselves and get into the Champions League again. He scored two goals in a big win over RB Leipzig during the run-in, then he also scored two in the cup final win against them again a few days later. Sancho's form was key. On that cup run, Sancho scored in every round but the semi-final – but he set up two in that game! He's scored goals in the Champions League as well. A free-kick against Club Brugge stands out.”
“I remember debates last year around 'Do we really need another player in the Rashford, Greenwood mould, or do we need a proper no.9?' Before Cavani came in... However, out of the three – Rashford, Martial and Greenwood – I'd compare him more to Martial. Perhaps more direct and more penetrative, though he's not had the injury issues Martial has had.
“Sancho's a winger in the classic sense. I've seen it suggested that he benefits from having a full-back that overlaps or underlaps behind him, and that's true to an extent, as it creates space for him to drive into. If Sancho plays on the left, having someone like Luke Shaw behind him is potentially pretty dangerous.”
“He's played off both wings for Dortmund, and I've seen him switch wings multiple times during games. He'd start all across the three [positions] behind Erling Haaland, with Thorgen Hazard and Marcos Reus, or sometimes Julian Brandt. He's been part of that three and he's switched across from left to right – usually switching with Hazard. He brings plenty of options with him, and he brings big-game goals with him, Champions League experience, cup-winning experience, and individualism, whatever the position.”
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“He seemed to have been a well-integrated and popular part of the squad. From everything you see, he always seemed to be having a laugh and a joke with his team-mates. He seemed to get on really well with Erling Haaland on and off the pitch. He obviously linked up well with him on the pitch, so obviously it will be interesting to see how he links up with someone like Cavani, because he didn't just work well with full-backs – he also had a good understanding with the main striker, whether it was Haaland or sometimes Marcos Reus playing a bit further up.
“Off the pitch, he seemed to get on well with people. And purely among the Dortmund support, they absolutely loved him. He's popular, but there was an understanding that he wanted to go, he had to go. But he was popular and there's no bad blood at all, as far as I can tell.”
You can follow Matt and find links to his articles via Twitter at @matt_4d.