A few months ago, you’d have bet on Jadon Sancho being the player to watch in games like the one coming up today. And yet, as Manchester United take on Liverpool at Old Trafford at 4.30pm, it seems likely that the expensive summer signing will only be on the bench.
Despite being such a dazzling performer at former club Borussia Dortmund, Sancho has 0 goals and 0 assists for Man Utd so far, with the 21-year-old surely now in need of a big performance very soon before he moves from the category of ‘slow starter’ to ‘flop’.
Pulling a performance out of the bag against Liverpool today would be ideal to kick-start the Sancho era at Old Trafford, and it could also justify United’s decision to move for him when their rivals didn’t.
Earlier this year, Bild reporter Christian Falk claimed that the Reds were considering Sancho amid doubts over Mohamed Salah’s future, and some might argue that he would’ve made sense as a priority even without the concern over Salah.
Towards the back end of last season, Sadio Mane looked past his best, and there were legitimate questions about whether or not Jurgen Klopp should be breaking up that front three and starting a new generation to bounce back after such a disappointing 2020/21 campaign.
In stark contrast to how United do business, however, Liverpool opted for a more patient approach and had a decidedly unspectacular summer in the transfer market, with Klopp sticking with the likes of Mane and the misfiring Roberto Firmino for another season. So far, his faith is paying dividends, with the Liverpool front three back to their electrifying best, with Salah leading the way, but seeming to galvanise his fellow attackers as he goes.
The Sancho of Dortmund certainly looked like he could have been an ideal Mane successor, or long-term Salah replacement, but at United he’s barely ahead of Jesse Lingard in the pecking order. Don’t bet against him sitting next to Lingard on the bench this afternoon, while two other United academy graduates in Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood line up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Could Sancho have done well to be a little more patient himself? United seemed by far his strongest suitor this summer, but another fine season at Dortmund would have been hard for the rest of Europe to ignore, and there’s always the chance a more suitable move would’ve come along for him eventually, including the opportunity to develop under the more cohesive regime of Klopp at Liverpool.
There’s still time, of course, for Sancho to avoid becoming another Alexis Sanchez or Angel Di Maria, but the longer his poor start drags on, the more fans will sense that a familiar scenario is playing out once again at United, who continue to show themselves to be great at making signings, but less so at actually knowing what to do with them.
Sancho could really do with a big game today, but you just get the feeling that United are once again going to be reminded that they’ve spent a fortune on chopping and changing up front only to still end up with a front three that’s nowhere near as Salah, Mane and Firmino at Liverpool.