Manchester United’s pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho has been the most obvious talk of the town of late. And with the number of potential suitors increasing followed by the imminent arrival of Jude Bellingham from Birmingham, Sancho’s exit from Germany seems like just a matter of time.
Dortmund had signed Sancho as a 17-year-old from Manchester City for a mere £8 million, and it didn’t take long for him to assert his claim in one of the toughest leagues of Europe. Three years on, the winger has now become one of the most wanted commodities, especially in England.
The situation, however, is tricky, with Sky Sports reporting Manchester United will not pay more than £50m for the 20-year-old, while Dortmund are hanging on to their £100m valuation of their player. And while Sancho himself is keen on moving back to England, with Manchester United tipped as favourites, failing to achieve a middle-ground in the negotiation would mean United will have to look for options.
That said, here are five players who might fit the bill for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United:
Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)
Jadon Sancho’s game revolves around speed and flair coupled with an ability to take on defender after defender; a trait also matched by Philippe Coutinho. Having endured a tough time since moving to Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018 for a fee reported to be around £142 million, the Brazilian has slowly become an unwanted commodity in Spain.
Coutinho put in a strong showing at Bayern Munich while on loan for the 2019/20 season, scoring eight goals and six assists in 23 league appearances, but the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions are adamant on not making his deal a permanent one, which is set to cost them a reported fee of €120m. The situation is indeed tedious, but Manchester United can forge in between to take the Brazilian out of his misery.
However, if United are to consider a move, there are a couple of factors that might hinder their approach, with the first being his six years of history with Liverpool. That can well and truly be resolved, but the final thing they need to negotiate is the fee, with Barcelona looking to recoup as much as they can.
Ferran Torres (Valencia)
Statistics-wise, Valencia’s Ferran Torres hasn’t done much to be in the league of Sancho, having scored just four goals and four assists in 31 La Liga appearances, but it is his style of play which has garnered the attention of some of the top clubs of Europe.
If reports are to be believed, should Sancho exit, United will have to compete with the likes of Juventus and even Borussia Dortmund for Torres, who has excelled in becoming Valencia’s youngest Champions League goalscorer and youngest to play 50 La Liga games at 19 years and 324 days old.
Torres is usually deployed as a right-winger, but his versatility allows him to play on the left and as a centre-forward too. Known for playing some dangerous key passes into the final third, Torres’ game revolves around dribbling and taking on defenders on his own at times. He may well and truly not be a like-to-like replacement of Sancho, but given his age, there’s always a scope for improvement.
Adama Traore (Wolves)
"He is a motorcycle! It’s almost impossible. Nobody can handle this pace,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola had said ahead of his side’s clash against Wolves in December, and the Spaniard’s assessment turned out to be perfect, as the Wolves went on to clinch all three points, with Traore terrorising the City defence as if it was a piece of cake.
Traore, at times, may seem like an unfinished product, but at 24, he has all the time in the world.
Having scored six goals and nine assists in all competitions this season, Traore has established himself as one of the fastest players at present. The 24-year-old sure has some disciplinary issues, but there’s certainly no questioning his return on the field.
Traore has averaged a whopping 5.1 dribbles and 1.3 key passes per game and has established an exhilarating partnership with Raul Jimenez. The duo has, in fact, combined for 10 Premier League goals this season, the most of any EPL duo, and just the seventh different partnership to manage at least 10 in a single campaign in the competition.
Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
United’s pursuit of Paulo Dybala has time and again manifested in the tabloids since the last summer transfer window. The Argentine attacker, however, has gone from being offered to a host of clubs last year to one of Juventus’ most important players this season.
Having scored 16 goals and seven assists in all competitions, Dybala would be an ideal candidate if United fail to land Sancho, with the 26-year-old sharing several common traits with the Dortmund winger.
Dybala, like Sancho, loves to bring his teammates into the game and plays several key passes in the final third. And while his defensive contribution has been questioned, the overall quality he brings into the game is almost unmatchable. The Argentine, this season, has averaged 3.1 shots, two key passes and 1.9 dribbles per game in Serie A; a statistic which is bound to excite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz has caused a serious stir amongst some of the top European clubs, having scored 12 goals and six assists in 30 Bundesliga games this season. From the lot, Chelsea are expected to be the favourites, but an offer from Manchester United will be just as tempting for the 21-year-old.
Havertz is a tad different than Sancho as he loves to play centrally rather than on the wings. Make no mistake though, he is versatile enough to be deployed on the wings as well as a centre-forward. In fact, 10 of his 15 goals have come either from the centre-forward position or from the right-wing.
Ahead of the Bundesliga restart, Havertz was directly involved in 17 goals for Bayer Leverkusen in all competitions in 2020 (10 goals, seven assists); two more than any other player in the competition. A serious nominee for Solskjaer.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ronny Hartmann, Miguel Medina, Geoff Caddick