THE FAN POV: WHY SANCHO TO UNITED FEELS LIKE A SAFE SPACE

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ARNAV KHANNA | 19th July 2021

Daniel James frantically makes his way down the wing. He is face-to-face with his man, he tries to skip past the defender but is bodied off the ball as United lose possession…”

“Aaron Wan-Bissaka has acres of space ahead him as he bombs down the flank. He has the chance to cut inside or put in a cross, he decides to pass in-field to Bruno Fernandes instead…”

During the span of 90 minutes, the commentary is repeated with such regularity that you can recite it by heart, almost predicting it before even a word has been uttered. The poets that lend their voice to the beautiful game give the impression that they’re reading off a script for a video game you’ve played a million times.

Manchester United’s right-hand side is a black hole in possession. Between Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Scott McTominay and whichever square peg that’s been put in a round hole on the right, the trio always screams compromise instead of class.

A situation where the choice is between either retaining possession or attacking with incentive, but almost never both.

As a fan, it’s a concoction of helplessness and anxiety whenever the ball shifts to the right. A concoction from hell when the right never seems or rather is, never right.

Rather than unknowingly moving towards the edge of your seat, you slump, either expecting nothing or fearing the worst.

Enter Jadon Malik Sancho.

I’m sorry but my hands were tied, despite the text being in bold. Figure that one out.

We all know about the digits on paper. 21 years old. £73 million. No.7. 16 goals. 20 assists. 36 games.

And we’ve all seen him guide his lithe physique through a swarm of what you think is too many defenders before he comes out of the other side with the ball glued to his feet.

We’ve all appreciated his laser-guided passes that Erling Haaland thumps home like it’s nothing back for Dortmund’s finest.

Sancho’s decision-making, trickery, incentive and end product make him a diamond of a footballer beyond his years. But this isn’t breaking news to you.

What could be however, is how the lad stepping on the freshly cut grass at the Theatre of Dreams makes us United fans feel.

I can speak on the behalf of the entire fanbase and say we finally feel at ease. The sigh of relief in knowing that we finally have some semblance of balance between our left and right flanks.

The arrival of a mesmeric winger who doesn’t just beat his man and show you flashes of brilliance (See: Memphis Depay’s time at United) but someone who knits his dazzle with a final dagger as he always aims to deliver through actual end product with either a goal or an assist.

First touches feel safer, 1v1’s get you on your feet, crosses and cut-backs don’t make you blindly hope but believe and a shot from outside the box makes you worry for the opposing ‘keeper.

There is a huge perceptional aspect in football, where your idea of “what can happen” shifts continuously, depending on who’s feet the ball is currently in. And with Sancho, anything can happen.

Now to be rational and level-headed, there can absolutely be a period of acclimatization that is required. Maybe Sancho’s numbers drop as well, given the debut season struggles a myriad of footballers suffer from while transitioning to the Premier League.

But the stars are so perfectly aligned, it is hard not to get a little giddy.

With Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford doing most of the heavy lifting for United in an offensive sense, the boy from South London does so much more than just sharing the burdening of responsibility.

In the case of the ‘Portuguese magnifico’, for all of his bags of intent comes a certain gung-ho aspect to his decision-making that can be polished out of his game.

And JS7’s travel companion in Mr. MBE, his electric pace makes him profile perfectly as an outlet but with Man United’s dearth of ball carriers, Rashford can’t run in behind and be his direct, lethal self.

Both of these flaws can become a thing of the past when one of Europe’s best dribblers, a certified ball magnet if you will, gives his fellow wideman the license to be on the shoulder and dash while allowing Bruno not to be compelled to constantly conjure something out of nothing.

Oh and of course, we need to talk about how this helps a certain Mr.AWB. As Sancho utilizes his gravity to drag defenders inwards, the Palace academy graduate can run on the overlap and simply fizz a ball in, instead of trying his best to dominate the entire flank like he’s Achraf Hakimi.

Jadon allows the teammates that share the pitch with him to be themselves again.

Such nuances may go under the radar but they have a substantial impact if we look at the big picture. The fact that he can operate on both wings and with the same ferocity and added to that, is probably the sole attacker after Martial who can mediate the pace of the attack is going to feel like a breath of fresh air.

Hell, it might even feel like you’re breathing a completely different air altogether.

Oh, and the fact that he can be a serviceable employee to the Red Devils for a decade and a half; you might as well light a cigar, lean back in your chair and put your feet up. It is hard to find a box that Jadon Sancho does not tick, come the 14th of August when the Premier League is back.

Solskjaer’s men are about to receive a lot more cutbacks from the right wing and there are a fair few in the middle who will be salivating to put their boot through it. Life is good.

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