The departure of Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan on a free transfer has not only freed up a ton of wages from the books for Manchester United, but it has also vacated their iconic #7 jersey.
Donned by the likes of Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, the United #7 jersey has been considered cursed, owing to the failures of all of that succeeded Ronaldo in donning the iconic number.
The jersey comes with a fair share of expectations from the Old Trafford faithful and the club hierarchy believe that they may have found the man who’ll be able to handle to pressure and live up to the billing after wearing the #7 jersey, and it’s Borussia Dortmund’s 20-year-old winger Jadon Sancho.
The Englishman, who moved to Dortmund from United’s local rivals Manchester City, has been touted to make a move to Old Trafford in a deal that will see the club break the British record transfer.
The price tag and the weight of expectation is bound to bog down any footballer, but United believe that Sancho can finally end the terrible spell of the #7 jersey and here’s why:
Addressing Manchester United's right-wing woes
Since Luis Nani’s departure in 2014, United have struggled to fill the role on the right flank.
Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Alexis have all tried to fill the gap on the right-wing, however, none of these players has been able to fill the gap. Three of those - Depay, Young and Alexis - preferred to play on the left, while Mata and Di Maria were more inclined to play centrally rather than out wide.
Sancho, since moving to Dortmund, has primarily operated as a right-winger, and has thrived in that role in the free-scoring German side. In the past two campaigns, the 20-year-old has scored 33 goals and provided 39 assists majorly from the right flank, far more than the production that any of United’s stop-gap solutions on the right flank could muster.
United currently deploy either Dan James, who is still an unrefined asset, and Mason Greenwood, who prefers to cut in and shoot and sparsely participates in the build-up, on the right flank and Sancho will be a massive upgrade on both those players.
Being naturally right-footed and with a lethal eye for a pass, Sancho can stretch the defence, which will facilitate line-breaking runs from Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, further increasing the duo’s threat in the attacking third.
Great rapport with Rashford and a long-term solution
Sancho shares a great bond with England international teammates Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
Rashford, who has been United’s star man in attack, could further benefit from playing with a world-class talent like Sancho, and the camaraderie the duo share will make it an easy transition for them from the training ground to the stadium.
If United do sign the Englishman, the average age of their front five comprising Rashford, Anthony Martial, Greenwood, James and Sancho would be just 22, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have a frontline where each player is capable of playing in all three forward positions.
The tactical flexibility and the long-term solution that Sancho provides makes it a no-brainer for Manchester United to pull the trigger on this deal. And if what murmurs around Europe suggest is true, Sancho is all set to become the most expensive English player of all time as well as the owner of one of the most iconic jerseys in football history.
Images courtesy: AFP / Lars Baron / Lindsey Parnaby