Manchester United now have less than a week to compete a deal for Jadon Sancho. If they don’t, there is no way to describe the saga other than as a ‘failure’ in more ways than one.
United have drawn up a list of alternative options, of which Watford star Ismaila Sarr is the latest. But when one player has so publicly been your primary target for so long – it was last September whenwe first revealed the club’s ‘confidence’ of striking a deal this year – it is difficult to understand why it still hasn’t happened when it was, and still is, within close reach.
United have lacked a specialised right-winger for years. It was hoped that Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be the solution and for very brief periods he was. But United’s last real winger on that side was Antonio Valencia, who made the transition to full-back in 2015 and left the club over a year ago. That tells you just how long it has been a problem position.
Identifying a suitable player to fill the void, who is ‘gettable’ and will improve the team both in the short-term and long-term, is half the battle. United had done that with Sancho. Yet negotiations are once more the problem for a club that has developed a reputation for struggling in this department.
The frustration for fans is that it is potentially so close. 90min understands that everything is in place for the transfer to go ahead – personal terms, image rights for ad campaigns, etc – apart from the formal transfer fee with Borussia Dortmund.
United have not made an official bid but have informed Dortmund they are willing to pay €100m (£91m). That has been rebuffed, although talks are ongoing and all sides still remain confident an agreement will be struck, despite Dortmund’s public insistence Sancho is not leaving. The breakthrough could happen at any time, but both clubs want to be seen to ‘win’ the negotiations.
The player himself has reiterated his personal stance to Dortmund over the last few days that he would be happy to make the switch to Old Trafford if an offer is accepted.
It could hardly be any closer without actually going ahead. If United let this slip it would be huge error.
United are also boosted by the way Chelsea’s capture of Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen was eventually structured, in terms of substantial add-ons, which means that Dortmund’s demands of €120m (£109m) is not in line with the rest of the market.
Dortmund’s financial situation could equally come into it in the final days of the window. They have lost out on significant revenue as a result of the global situation and have committed around €150m in transfer fees since the end of the 2018/19 campaign, while they also haven’t been without criticism at home for spending so much on 17-year-old Jude Bellingham.
Sarr is another deal that could be arranged very quickly, perhaps even on deadline day on loan – that cannot be ruled out despite suggestions to the contrary – if Sancho does not happen. The 22-year-old Senegal international is a talented player who would bring pace, drive and creativity to the attack. But he’s not Sancho and at this point that in itself feels at least as important as just filling the position.
Despite a last gasp 3-2 win over Brighton on Saturday, United have started the season poorly. The players look defeated already and the much needed jolt that was felt when Bruno Fernandes arrived midway through the 2019/20 camoaign has well and truly worn off.
This group of players expected to have new recruits join and strengthen them, adding the quality necessary to improve after last season’s third place and return to the Champions League provided a solid platform to achieve longer term targets like challenging for the biggest honours again.
Donny van de Beek is a nice addition to the midfield, but Sancho has a wow factor on another level. Players are not immune to feelings and have hopes and expectations just like fans when it comes to new signings. To not get Sancho, when they know how close it is, would be a huge let down for them.
The impact on morale that could have, even if Sarr or someone else comes in instead, could be devastating for a team that already looks low on energy and confidence.
With Sancho, the United team that has laboured in two Premier League fixtures so far is a totally different prospect with a fresh shot in the arm. No one else can realistically now have that same effect, so it has to be him and only him. Anything else is failure.