English football is in a good place right now.
Memories of a sunny summer in Russia are still fresh, when Gareth Southgate and his legendary waistcoat led the Three Lions to a semi-final where they were narrowly denied by an excellent Croatia side. Countless pints were thrown into the Hyde Park sky when Kieran Trippier’s free kick hit the top corner, but that was as good as it got for England.
Fast forward 15 months and England look a different team from the one that came so close in the World Cup.
The back three formation has fallen by the wayside, but a front three has emerged that may just be the best in decades.
Raheem Sterling is one of the top five players in the world on current form and Harry Kane is as good a finisher as you’ll find anywhere on the planet (when he stays on his feet, that is).
But the third name in the devastating trio is that of 19-year-old sensation Jadon Sancho, who looks like a genuine world beater, despite his tender years.
Sancho bagged his first two goals for England in the European Championship qualifier against Kosovo earlier this week, where he twice linked with Sterling to apply the finishing touches to his former Manchester City colleague’s runs.
Add those goals to the two he’s already got in his first three Bundesliga games for Borussia Dortmund, and his three assists too, and you’ll understand why the hype around the Camberwell-born winger is off the scale at the minute.
And it’s that hype that has led to questions being asked about his future.
That in itself is something of a strange one, considering Sancho is currently:
- Playing first team football for a top European club
- In the Champions League
- Fighting to win trophies
- On a massive new contract, worth reportedly £190,000 a week
- Valued north of £100m
But that hasn’t stopped fans of a certain once-great English side urging their club to sign Sancho. Because it’s that easy apparently.
Look on social media the next time the teenager turns in a top performance for club or country (which won’t be long) and you’ll not have to go far to find Manchester United fans salivating over the thought of signing him.
Now you’d hope most of this is tongue-in-cheek, and some of it is, but there are plenty of United fans online who genuinely think it’s a matter of time before their club makes a big move for the former Watford youth prospect.
Question: Why would Jadon Sancho sign for Manchester United?
Now, depending on which club you support, the first words that spring to your mind when reading that question might be “massive club” or “history”. You might utter those words believing that those are two factors that would go some way towards persuading Sancho to swap the Yellow Wall for the Stretford End. But you’d be wrong to do so.
At the age of 18, after becoming frustrated with a lack of first team opportunities at Manchester City, Sancho forced a move away from the Etihad in search of the chances he required. That’s the first sign it doesn’t necessarily matter how big a club is, Sancho will make the best decision for him, and that’s all that matters.
As for history, that’s all Manchester United are trading on at the minute. Their best years are behind them, a massive rebuild is needed in the coming seasons, the manager may or may not last the course, the wage structure is knackered thanks to bad investments, and they’ve got a Chief Executive that’s more comfortable balancing spreadsheets than negotiating for strikers.
All these factors make Manchester United an ugly duckling. They’re the good-looking girl you remember from high school who you bump into a few years later, only to find out her beauty has deserted her and she’s not got much going for her these days.
If you look at players born before 1996, they’ll have grown up remembering the good old days of United. The all-conquering sides of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Treble winners. Keane, Scholes, Cole, Yorke, the Class of 92 etc.
Look at Harry Maguire, he was born in 1993, and turned down interest from Manchester City this summer because he preferred to sign for the red half of Manchester, presumably because he remembers what a force they were, and wants to be part of restoring the glory days, if that’s even possible.
Now compare that to when Sancho was born – 2000. By the time Sancho was 13 years old, United had won their last Premier League title to date. He entered his formative teenage years knowing that the Ferguson era had come to an end, and watched on (while wearing his Man City development squad kit) as Moyes, van Gaal and Mourinho all failed to keep United at the top of the English game.
Add to that the fact that United are playing Europa League football this season, and that looks as good as it’s going to get for the foreseeable future, and it’s fair to say that moving from Dortmund to Man United would represent something of a backwards step for Sancho.
And that’s not even considering the profile of teams that would be in for him if he did decide his future lies outside of Germany. He’s already mentioned that he wouldn’t be opposed to trying La Liga. That’ll have Barcelona and Real Madrid on high alert, especially once a certain Argentine hangs up his boots at the Camp Nou.
The best Man United could hope for is if Sancho does decide he wants the crack at the Premier League that Pep Guardiola denied him, and opts to try and teach City the ultimate lesson by signing on at Old Trafford.
In a recent Amazon Prime documentary on Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Director Michael Zorc talked about the interest around their starlet:
He [Sancho’s agent] was invited by Man Utd, and he told them that we won’t sell in the summer for any money and that Sancho isn’t really interested in moving either.Michael Zorc, Borussia Dortmund Sporting Director
That sums up the state of Manchester United right now. Once upon a time, there wasn’t a player in the land who would turn down United without so much as listening to what they were offering.
But with the club in its current state on and off the field, the latest generation of top talent will find it easier to ignore any advances and progress their careers elsewhere.
And that’s a swift kick in the bollocks for a club whose fanbase have feasted on success for decades on end.