Manchester United news: What’s gone wrong with Jadon Sancho and can he turn it around?

Jadon Sancho has struggled at Manchester United since signing for the club over a year ago

If there is a bad time to tumble out of form then this is it. With a World Cup just over a month away Jadon Sancho’s displays for Manchester United are hardly doing much to earn him a recall to the England squad for a trip to Qatar.

Yet, international football will be the least of concerns for Sancho right now as this poor run of form is more than a blip – it seems to have blighted his whole United career so far.

It continued on Thursday night when given a Europa League start at minnows Omonia Nicosia he was hauled off at half-time with his side embarrassingly trailing 1-0.

Jadon Sancho has struggled at Manchester United since signing for the club over a year ago

The humiliation didn’t stop there though, with United legend Paul Scholes launching a scathing criticism of his performance during a match where his replacement Marcus Rashford scored twice to turn the game around and seal a 3-2 win.

Scholes said: ‘Sancho never really runs in behind. He needs a fast left-back really or a center forward to link up with and he hasn’t really got that at the moment.’

It’s been just over a year since he arrived at Old Trafford to much fanfare. He was an England international who had been chased for over 12 months by then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side before eventually completing a £73million move from Borussia Dortmund.

The forward hit a new low on Thursday after he was substituted at half-time at Omonia Nicosia

The forward hit a new low on Thursday after he was substituted at half-time at Omonia Nicosia

Scholes has hinted at the problems faced by Sancho, but why has he struggled in light of the form he once displayed for Dortmund since moving to Old Trafford?

It was playing in Germany that catapulted Sancho into English football in the first place, with his Dortmund form seeing him storm into Gareth Southgate’s England team as part of a forward line consisting of him Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling while still just 18-years-old .

United legend Paul Scholes has been critical of Sancho's ineffective displays in attack

United legend Paul Scholes has been critical of Sancho’s ineffective displays in attack

His talent wasn’t exactly a secret, he was always tipped for a bright future while in Manchester City’s youth academy and eyebrows were raised when he departed for Dortmund in the summer of 2017 for a little under £20million as he sought regular first-team soccer.

Eased into the team throughout the season despite suffering niggling ligament injuries he eventually caught a spark, starting the last four games where he scored his first Bundesliga goal and grabbed three assists.

The 2018-19 season though was his real breakthrough – scoring 12 goals and providing 18 assists in the Bundesliga that led to his England debut against the United States in November 2018.

Playing on the left side, he enjoyed an even more productive 2019-20 season with 17 Bundesliga goals and assists – which is when Manchester United first came calling.

A long summer pursuit from the Red Devils ended in embarrassing failure as the potential move collapsed due to Dortmund’s firm stance on their valuation of Sancho, but it didn’t knock him too far off his stride.

The arrival of Erling Haaland put more focus on the free-scoring Norwegian forward and while Sancho’s numbers dropped to eight goals and 12 assists in the Bundesliga he was prolific in the Champions League – scoring six goals from as many games and providing five assists.

Sancho's form in Germany earned him a place in the England squad

Sancho became a star player at Borussia Dortmund forming an effective partnership with Erling Haaland

Jadon Sancho became a star player at Borussia Dortmund forming an effective partnership with Erling Haaland and his form in Germany earned him a place in the England squad (left)

Any perceived slight dip in form wasn’t enough to put United off who once again led an aggressive pursuit – looking to sign Sancho last year before the European Championship.

Here is where it gets interesting. As the tournament started and his transfer saga rumbled on, Sancho suddenly became a fringe figure in the squad.

His deal with United was completed just after the group stage – where he only played six minutes as a late substitute in the 1-0 win over Czech Republic.

He played a full 90 minutes in the 4-0 victory over Ukraine in the quarter-finals but his only other appearance in the tournament came in the final when he came on in the last few seconds against Italy in extra-time only to then miss in the eventual shoot-out defeat.

As far as his international record goes since his United debut, he played 72 minutes away at Andorra a year ago and hasn’t been called up since.

Sancho lost his England squad place soon after missing a crucial penalty in the Euro 2020 final

Sancho lost his England squad place soon after missing a crucial penalty in the Euro 2020 final

Sancho’s England form wasn’t exactly sparking near the end, but neither has he got it together at Old Trafford. Unfortunately for Sancho, his Red Devils career was already dealt a blow just weeks after arriving when the shock return of Cristiano Ronaldo overshadowed his arrival and any notion that the attack would be focused on his strengths.

With all the attention on the Portuguese maestro, Sancho had already become a relative afterthought.

Despite being fit, he didn’t complete a full 90 minutes until November and it was only after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked near the end of November that he grabbed his first goal, netting against Chelsea while playing as a central striker.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick followed his predecessor in then struggling to get any form out of Sancho on either flank before settling into a favored left side role.

An increased amount of game time in the second half of the season saw his form slightly improve but he still ended the campaign with a rather miserable record of just five goals and three assists across all competitions

Now under his third United manager with Erik ten Hag in a year, he has struggled to settle

Now under his third United manager with Erik ten Hag in a year, he has struggled to settle

Erik ten Hag’s arrival in the summer offered another kick-start but his situation has barely improved. His form remains average although he did contribute key goals in big wins over Liverpool and Leicester City.

So while Sancho hasn’t and isn’t a total disaster at United, he is certainly far away from producing the goods expected given his previous exploits at Dortmund and the expected £150m in total it will cost United across his five-year-deal at Old Trafford.

While his substitution in Cyprus was a new low, it was his hooking after 70 minutes in the 6-3 defeat at rivals Man City that may have hurt more.

His exit at the Etihad Stadium at his former club must have been painful just six minutes after watching his former Dortmund pal Haaland tear up the pitch with a hat-trick for Pep Guardiola’s outfit in a 6-3 win, as the Norwegian striker continues to take the Premier League by storm after quickly settling following his summer switch to Manchester. What could have been, perhaps?

Sancho has shown glimpses of his talent scoring a crucial goal in the recent win over Liverpool

Sancho has shown glimpses of his talent scoring a crucial goal in the recent win over Liverpool

So where now for Sancho? Scholes for all his criticism does at least offer solutions in trying to help him build a relationship with a regular striker as well as a full-back.

But with the Red Devils in such a state of flux it’s difficult to see who that could be – especially in the short term. Sancho may have been exposed as a player who needs quality team-mates to bring the best out of him – and that’s not necessary a bad thing and neither does it make him a bad player. Guardiola believes that is the case with Haaland for instance and it’s not harmed his game.

It does mean though that if United want a greater yield on their heavy investment in Sancho, they are probably going to need to either build an attack around Sancho’s strengths now – or play the patient game and have a rethink with additions in the January transfer market .

Either way there does not appear to be an easy fix to Sancho’s situation at United and patience will likely need to be applied to try and steer him away from the path of being another expensive Old Trafford flop.

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