Manchester United’s underwhelming summer of recruitment is beginning to age well, as is their failed pursuit of Jadon Sancho.
The Borussia Dortmund winger was the club’s top target but, in keeping with their recruitment success of recent times, they were unable to get a deal over the line.
The German club gave United an August deadline by which to complete the transfer and refused to negotiate beyond that. They were true to their word.
Since then United have won eight of their 13 Premier League games and Sancho hasn’t scored in nearly 900 minutes of Bundesliga football.
With the Red Devils it is a case of results overshadowing performances, the cracks are certainly still there, but it is ultimately a results business and they could soon be two points off the summit.
Would Sancho have made a difference to performances though? Well the numbers suggest no and they may well be correct.
United’s pursuit of Sancho has a whiff of style over substance. Young, English, in keeping with the club’s tradition and a chance to get one over on rivals Manchester City.
The substance though? Well it doesn’t match up.
Sancho is immensely talented, supremely gifted and hugely in demand. Sancho is also incredibly raw, far from the finished article and playing for a team that continue to disappoint.
Jamie Carragher recently said, when discussing Paul Pogba, that he was a great talent but not necessarily a great player. He was bang on.
The two don’t always go hand in hand, many have had talent but been unable to turn it into what it should’ve been.
There is that danger with Sancho and there is also that danger for United. Few, if any, would turnaround and call Pogba’s transfer a success.
Eighty-nine million pounds, a club record, for flashes of brilliance, continued controversy and two pieces of silverware. That is not a sufficient return on investment.
If United spend big again they cannot afford to get it wrong. Not only from a financial point of view, but from a reputation one.
There is a belief at Old Trafford, in between the slow starts and lethargic performances, that something is building and the gap to Liverpool and City can close.
Recruitment from here on out though has to be perfect. Sancho could be another Pogba, albeit without the baggage. He will cost a huge sum, yes he will give you plenty of years, but as we’ve seen with the Frenchman time does not guarantee development.
The signings United make going forward have to be measured against Bruno Fernandes. The midfielder came in and hit the ground running. There was a clear improvement.
Players who come in and simply compliment what is already there will not take the Red Devils back to where they want to be.
On a good day Solskjaer starts Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in attack and on a good day they all fire.
On the face of it, the most dispensable player of that forward line is Greenwood, yet you hear about how highly those within the club regard him.
The current Liverpool trio, Barcelona’s famed MSN both show that three elite forwards is enough. So would £100m of United’s money be best spent on Sancho?
Particularly when we have bemoaned the fact that all three of the club’s forward like to come in from wider positions. Surely that tells you a centre forward for them all to play around would be a better acquisition.
Sancho’s last Bundesliga goal came on May 31. In no universe does a £100m player go seven months without a league goal, even with an off-season in between.
It is well known that Sir Alex Ferguson rarely signed the finished article, instead preferring to sign the type of player he could nurture. A Cristiano Ronaldo for example.
These players were walking into winning outfits, had leaders around them who they could lean on. Both luxuries not afforded to a single new face who walks through the door at Old Trafford.
The global pandemic gave United a unique chance last summer. They had a free run at Sancho. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona nor any of their domestic rivals were interested.
That opportunity has come and gone. By no means does it mean they cannot and will not get their man however.
Signing Sancho sends a clear message to Europe – we are bigger than you. United though should be wanting their transfer to send a different kind of message – we are going to be better than you.
£100m on Sancho is form over function. An ends to a means but not an end in itself. Missing out on him was not a bad outcome, it just comes down to whether they can see that.