Jadon Sancho has an unusually close bond to Manchester United for a player merely on their transfer wishlist.
The Red Devils have been aware of the ability the young Englishman possesses for quite some time having watched him grow up and progress down the road at Manchester City.
Sancho has made a few trips to Man United’s Carrington training ground over the years, with one visit back in December 2016 leaving quite the impression.
The now Borussia Dortmund forward had just been promoted to Man City’s Under-18s team, which featured the likes of an up-and-coming Phil Foden as well as Brahim Diaz, who is now at Real Madrid.
Ahead of the derby, Sancho had scored seven in 11 appearances for the Under-18s – many of these coming when he was just 15.
But the young winger was left on the bench as United took the lead.
Eventually, Sancho was brought on and his introduction made all the difference.
The London-born star set up Man City’s first before forcing a save from the keeper for Foden to slot home the away side’s second.
United coaches were left stunned by the way in which Sancho impacted the game and Under-18s boss Scott McKenna – who is now on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s coaching staff – liked what he saw.
On another visit to United’s training ground, Sancho is said to have got speaking with Angel Gomes and DJ Buffonge and struck up a bond with the players.
Both individuals have since left United, but in the years since Sancho has struck up close bonds with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
Sancho was once asked to name the most skilful footballers he’s come up against, and couldn’t resist adding in that Rashford was the trickiest he’d played alongside.
“It would have to be Neymar, he is different with it. Played with – Marcus Rashford,” said Sancho. “When I was at City Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva. It would probably be David Silva. He just dictates play.”
Rashford, meanwhile, has previously said that it would be “good” if Sancho joined Manchester United. He also added: “Sancho is a great player. He’s like the new generation player.”
With Lingard, it’s much the same.
“Jadon is a brilliant player,” said Lingard of his compatriot. “It’s obviously up to him [if he joins Man United]. I’ve seen him with England, I’ve seen his qualities and I feel like he’d be a great addition to any team.”
Manchester United were seemingly certain they’d sign Sancho in last summer’s transfer window.
They had reached an agreement with the player and were ready to hand over some cash for his services when Dortmund put the brakes on the deal.
BVB demanded that Man United pay £108million before August 10 or kiss goodbye to their chances of signing Sancho.
The Red Devils didn’t take the threat seriously and after the deadline was missed Dortmund chief Michael Zorc came out in the press.
“We are planning with Sancho,” said Zorc. “He’ll play for us next season. The decision is final. I think that answers all of the questions.”
He added: “Last summer, we adjusted the salary in line with Jadon’s performance. In this context, we have extended the contract until 2023.”
BVB head of licensed player division Sebastian Kehl later doubled down on the sentiment, saying: “It was important to get clarity on the subject.
“We know about Jadon’s attractiveness but also of his importance to us. He gives our team that little extra. We’re happy that he’s staying.”
Zorc then addressed the rumours one final time, saying: “The door is closed, I have said this 27 times”.
United were forced to work with what they already have at the disposal for another season, but the January signing of Amad Diallo and a recent admission from Edinson Cavani’s father has turned things on its head.
Amad has made only four appearances for the Red Devils this season, with none of these coming in the Premier League.
But the youngster has huge potential and there is much excitement around him at Old Trafford.
His goal after coming off the bench for United in the 1-1 draw with AC Milan in the Europa League demonstrated wonderfully the potential of the 18-year-old.
And his emergence, coupled with Lingard’s stunning form on loan at West Ham poses the question: Do United need another winger?
Signing Sancho would all but clear-out United’s bank account, and it seems in recent months there is the feeling that the money would be better spent elsewhere.
Both Rashford and Anthony Martial are preferred on the wing for United, leaving Mason Greenwood and Cavani as the club’s two main centre forwards.
The duo are excellent on their day, but Greenwood hasn’t progressed in quite the way United chiefs were hoping this season.
Cavani, meanwhile, is apparently unsettled at United, and according to his dad, looking to leave Old Trafford in the near future.
Luis Cavani recently told TyC Sports: “My son does not feel comfortable in England and wants to be close to the family again.
“Edinson is going to end up playing in South America. I want Edinson to play in a team that fights for something important.
“Edinson had many conversations with [Boca vice-president Juan Roman] Riquelme and he would like to play for Boca. He was always seduced by the idea of playing in Boca.
“If he returns to South America he is leaning towards Boca.”
He added: “By the middle of the year he will return to South America. My son’s idea is not to continue there, he wants to return.”
Losing Cavani would be huge for United, and something Solskjaer would need to fix as a priority.
And there is an obvious solution to this problem…
Erling Haaland is Sancho’s team-mate at Dortmund, and it seems the Norwegian has now taken the top spot over the Englishman on Manchester United’s transfer wishlist.
Reports claim Solskjaer, who used to manage Haaland at Molde, has been in regular contact with the striker in the hope of convincing him to join the Red Devils.
Haaland has a release clause of £64million, which comes into play in 2022.
This means that he is likely to be the subject of a bidding war this summer, and there is no telling how high a fee he could generate.
It’s a problem, but if there is one club that can compete with the best of them financially then it is Manchester United, and Haaland may just be the player to take the Red Devils to the next level.