With two weeks to go in the Premier League transfer window, it seems almost definite now that Ole Gunnar Solskjær will not be getting his No.1 target for the right wing position.
Manchester United have been pursuing Jadon Sancho for almost 18 months, with the club publicly making him their prime target this summer after securing a return to Champions League football last season.
Dortmund were firm, they wanted €120 million guaranteed as a fee to let the player leave. According to reports they were happy to accept instalments, they just wanted a good chunk up front to replace him and then the rest in guaranteed payments – not add-ons. Manchester United were adamant they would not pay that much during this window with the pandemic still in full-flow. There was hope that the two would be able to find a compromise but it hasn’t happened.
With the German outfit beginning their season with Sancho as part of their squad, it’s highly unlikely now that they will be willing to let him go so late in the transfer window and it’s highly unlikely that Manchester United will suddenly turn around and pay the amount they’ve refused to pay all summer long. The deal, for now, is dead in the water.
While Sancho will surely remain a target going forward, what should Manchester United do now? Do they look for stop-gap alternatives? Do they sign another winger instead and forget about Sancho altogether? Do they sign a new winger AND look to bring in Sancho next summer too? There are options.
As a stop-gap, the club have been linked with loan moves for Ivan Perisic and Douglas Costa. Both men are deemed as surplus to requirements at their current clubs (Inter and Juventus respectively) and have been linked with the club often in the past. Perisic was part of the hugely successful Bayern Munich side last season and was wanted in a permanent capacity but the two sides couldn’t agree on a fee and the German side walked away from the deal. For me, the club should steer clear. Short-term options are not what the club need right now and both players are left-footed who prefer to play on the left wing. It would just be bad judgement all round.
The reality is that Sancho is the perfect target for the club at the moment. He is young, English, quick, can play on either wing, scores goals, creates assists and doesn’t flounder against a low-block defence. The club should absolutely return for him at the next possible opportunity if they can and get a deal done if they’re unwilling to do so this summer. But they need reinforcements now too.
There are plenty of young wingers out there who should Manchester United be willing to spend a bit of money, they can try to bring in that would add quality depth and still not close off the prospect of Sancho joining in the future.
Ousmane Dembele has struggled with injuries for almost his entire spell at Barcelona and some disciplinary problems have seen the club consider cutting ties with him previously. While Ronald Koeman has him as part of the squad for the coming season, Barça are not light in attack. With Messi, Griezmann, Fati, Coutinho already at the club and Memphis to join, Dembele could be potentially become available. United should look to make a loan move for ‘Dembouz’ with the option of a permanent deal next summer. They’d likely have to pay his wages for the summer and offer a considerable loan fee, but he has the type of X-factor that Jadon Sancho also possesses. If he’s in any way available, United should have him earmarked as the first alternative.
Another option at Barcelona is Ansu Fati. The youngster broke into the first-team at Barca last season and was the shining star of a horrid season at the Nou Camp aged just 16. He made his Spain debut just prior to the season starting and became the youngest ever player and scorer for the senior national team. A signing would be nigh on impossible but if United are willing to spend the big money on Sancho but face stubborness from Dortmund, Fati would be a fitting alternative for a big money signing.
Another option could be Callum Hudson-Odoi of Chelsea. The young winger was linked with a move to Bayern Munich last summer but instead signed a new contract with the club before picking up a serious achilles injury. Since then he has struggled to get regular minutes under Frank Lampard and has been linked with a move away yet again. He has dribbling, speed, ability with both feet, ability to beat a man one-on-one, playmaking and goalscoring. He’s similar in that sense to Sancho and would be available for much less than Sancho would cost. The likelihood of a deal isn’t great considering the rivalry between the two clubs but if the player is keen to move on and he isn’t first choice, a bid of around £40 million could be enough to get the Blues ears perked up.
A left-field option would be young Dutchman Calvin Stengs. I linked him with Manchester City previously as a potential replacement for Leroy Sane after he signed for Bayern Munich for much of the same reasons as I’m listing him here. A left-footed winger who plays mostly from the right hand side for AZ Alkmaar, Stengs is a goal-threat and a dangerous dribbler on the ball, while he also has the ability to split defences with a pass as his 9 assists for last season showed. Only 21 years old, he fits perfectly into the profile that Solskjær is trying to build at the club and would be relatively cheap in comparison to all the players mentioned in this list.
With the Sancho deal dead, United need to make a decision and fast on what they want to do with their right-wing this season.