'A natural footballer... a perfect player'

Wednesday 25 August 2021 07:00

Jadon Sancho has made an impression everywhere he’s been in his short career, and attracted some head-spinning plaudits from some very famous names.

So ahead of what could be the forward's first start in a United shirt, in Sunday's visit to Molineux to face Wolves (kick-off 16:30 BST), we've brought together the most-rounded picture yet of our no.25's journey thus far.

In his own words and of those around him – including legends of the game like Neymar, Lothar Matthaus and Thomas Muller – this is the Jadon Sancho story...
“Getting to Arsenal was a lot harder on public transport than Watford. The club [Watford] said they wanted me to start going to a boarding school when I was 11. Not many kids get that opportunity, and they paid for me to go, for everything. I was like, why not? Plus, the area I was from wasn’t too good. There were bad influences and my dad wanted me to get away from that. It was tough at first and I had a lot of conversations saying I wanted to go home because I couldn’t cope, but my family gave me a speech about thinking about the long-term and I listened to it.”
– Jadon explains how, after turning down Arsenal aged eight, he joined Watford’s Academy and began to thrive.
“One of the brightest prospects breaking through in Manchester, Sancho was plucked from Watford in March 2015 and is now one of the most exciting talents among the England youth ranks. While City seem reluctant to push him too far too quickly, it will undoubtedly be a matter of time before he comes to Pep Guardiola’s attentions.”
– Journalist ‘Youth Hawk’, in a 2016 FourFourTwo article profiling 13 contenders to be the Premier League’s first player born after the year 2000 (an honour taken by United’s Angel Gomes).
“When he came to us as a 15-year-old, Jadon was sensational. And I don’t say that lightly. What stood out was how he could take people on at speed. A lot of the time you either get a technician or someone who is rapid. He had both and he could dribble both sides.”
– Dan Micciche, England U15s and U16s coach, reflects on his early experiences of Sancho, shortly after the youngster’s move to Manchester City at the age of 14.
“Young Englishman Jadon Sancho lit up the Mini Estadi as the burgeoning talents of two football academies went head-to-head. Sancho – who does not even turn 17 until next March – really caught the eye among a wealth of talent. Quick, direct Sancho constantly opened up the Barça defence.”
– Stuart Brennan, of the Manchester Evening News, singles out Sancho while reporting on City’s UEFA Youth League defeat to Barcelona in October 2016.
“For a young kid playing his first under-18s football match I thought he was sensational. He’s a talented boy who works really hard.”
– Manchester City U18s coach Jason Wilcox after 15-year-old Jadon scored twice inside five minutes on his youth-team debut for the Blues.
“We had a team where with almost every player you could see they could have a top career, but always you could see that Jadon Sancho technically was amazing. He did what he wanted with the ball. You can see it now. I always said that this guy if he wanted to, could be top of the world. He was such a good player and I love that he is a top person as well.”
– Ex-City youth striker Lorenzo Gonzalez assesses Sancho’s standing within the Blues’ ranks.
“Manchester City have a fine, elusive youngster running the wide left attacking side in their academy teams. Jadon Sancho is only 16 but should have a big future. He looks super confident despite playing with stronger, more physical players. I like his positioning; he is always available for his left-sided defenders with his boots on the chalk, always on the half-turn so he can collect and see the angle of the approaching full-back. It is then that he can drag the ball past his man with his right foot and race down the line. Canny full-backs will force him inside but he has the control to weave his way across the field too. He also sees a diagonal pass to his frontman and can drift the ball round the corner to a forward. He has enough alternatives in his locker to be a full-back’s nightmare. Young Jadon could be worth a lot of money in due course.”
– The Daily Mail’s ‘Secret Scout’ runs the rule over Jadon in December 2016.
“I would have taken any number but getting the seven [shirt] was a big boost to my confidence. It doesn’t faze me. It is about coming here and proving myself. That is why I am here. To play for the first team, in front of the yellow wall, is a dream come true.”
– Midway through his first term with Borussia Dortmund, Jadon reflects on his unexpected 2017 move to the Bundesliga.
“I wanted to know more about this wonderful guy I’d seen playing. I didn’t know him at all, or who he played for, just his surname. But from that moment I could see he was fantastic. I only needed to watch for 15 minutes to know that. He’s a natural footballer. A player who has everything: fantastic speed, great technique, a good eye for his colleagues and that key pass. For me he is a perfect player.”
– Bayern Munich and Germany legend, Lothar Matthaus, recalls his first glimpse of watching Sancho in action for England’s Under-17s.

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“His acceleration is brutal, he can do a lot of damage with his quick changes of direction. He still has a lot to learn and work hard, but for an 18-year-old, that was a special performance.”
– Dortmund team-mate Maximilian Philipp reacts to Jadon’s first senior goal (plus two assists) in a 4-0 romp over Bayer Leverkusen.
“Dortmund have a lot of young talented players and a lot of history, so at the time I was looking at Christian Pulisic and he was about 18 or 19, and I just looked up to him and thought I could do the same thing. It’s helped me a lot being a regular, but coming to Dortmund at such a young age, seeing how they are before and after, it’s helped me become more mature on the pitch. I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say about this year. I’ve just got to keep grounded and keep my feet on the ground.”
– Fresh from his first senior England cap, Jadon explains his move to Germany and reflects on a meteoric 2018.
“Borussia Dortmund is a team with plenty of quality players. They have a special player, who is new but who is very good, whose name is Sancho. Jadon is a player that I really like to watch play and he is a great player with plenty of quality.”
– Brazilian star Neymar identifies a major danger to PSG ahead of their 2020 Champions League clash with Dortmund.
“We scouted him for the first time in August 2016, one year ahead of when we signed him. We mainly watched him for his matches with the U17s of England and, of course, when he played for Man City in the youth league games. You could easily recognise his outstanding talent. And, therefore, it was very easy. I’m not surprised about his performances. I’m surprised how fast he managed to get on at this senior level because, before, he only played in youth teams. And also his stability in performing well. During last autumn he nearly played each game and always at a high level. For this age he can still play in our Under-19 team! He’s still a youth player in our terms – that’s unbelievable. He’s very robust, very strong. For his age, he is outstanding.”
– Michael Zorc, Borussia Dortmund’s sporting director, reflects on Jadon’s sensational assimilation to German football.
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“He’s one of the best players in the Bundesliga. You just have to look at his goals and assists last season. He’s still very young and I don’t know if he might get any better. But I also expect a lot from him in the next season. He’s just extraordinarily talented.”
– Dortmund midfielder Thomas Delaney looks ahead to Sancho’s 2020/21 campaign.
“He’s such a talented boy. As it’s been known all over the world, we’ve followed Jadon for a long, long time. He’s a player that we’ve targeted, and we think his qualities will fit right in here at Manchester United. He’s got that DNA of exciting fans and entertaining and he’s also a winner. He wants to win and that’s the next step for us. We need to take the next step, we want to take the next step and we feel that he can help us do that.”
– Ole Gunnar Solskjaer underlines his delight at finally bringing Jadon to Old Trafford.
“Jadon Sancho is a superb player. He’s a menace with his technique, speed and dribbling. There are other players in the Bundesliga with those qualities, but they don’t have his exceptional decision making.”
– Bayern Munich star Thomas Muller salutes Sancho’s second full season as a Borussia Dortmund regular.
“He’s been playing very well for a while. He's been working very differently these past months on the training pitch and in the weight room. That ends up paying off. That’s something that attackers often have to learn; that hard work pays off. The fact that he has offensive potential possessed by few others is something we all know.”
– Dortmund and Germany defender Mats Hummels notes the physical maturation of the England winger in early 2021.