Jadon Sancho has had a tough adjustment period, following his return to England. It was expected that he would be the marquee signing to take Manchester United to a new level, but in hindsight, the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo has caused problems for him. The initial plan would have been for the England international to be the first choice right-winger. However, he has started to thrive on the left wing.
One of the important aspects of Sancho’s game has been his ability to build relationships with the full-back behind him. His strongest performances came when he was playing with Achraf Hakimi, with the pair causing chaos down Borussia Dortmund’s right wing. At the beginning of this season, he struggled to build the same rapport with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The right-back has limitations as an attacking force.
The recent change to the left means he is now combining with Luke Shaw. The early signs are that there is a better relationship with his international team-mate and Sancho’s performances have improved as a result.
During the weekend’s draw to Southampton, Sancho scored his second Premier League goal of the season. It was a great counter-attacking goal, after Marcus Rashford burst into space. Sancho took up a central position and was left with an easy finish. One of the advantages of playing the pair as wingers is that this type of goal-scoring situation should be more frequent, as they both have the pace to get in behind opposition defences.
It would be expected that Sancho would be the more creative and Rashford the bigger goal threat. On Saturday, Sancho had two shots on goal, made one key pass and completed one dribble. He carried the ball into the penalty area on two occasions, more than any other player in the Manchester United team. There is more confidence in his game and that should lead to an improvement in output.
Although it has been a struggle to adapt to the Premier League, Sancho has continued to show creativity in his performances. He has yet to register an assist, but he is averaging 4.19 shot creating actions per ninety minutes. This is only slightly lower than his average in the Bundesliga. It suggests that it has been a lack of confidence that has been holding him back, rather than a lack of quality.
Sancho has now scored in two of his last three matches across all competitions. It will be interesting to see if that gives him the confidence boost he needs to show his quality on a more consistent basis. There was certainly more of a swagger in his performance following the goal against Southampton. He looked like he was trying to make things happen, rather than shy away from the ball.
The coming weeks are crucial for Manchester United. Results have been poor and there has been a lack of fluidity in their performances. Despite the poor form, Sancho has been showing improvements and there will be hope that he can finish the campaign in great form. Ralf Rangnick is still trying to find his best team, but it looks wise to persist with Sancho and Rashford as his wide players.