Jadon Sancho could get what he want at Manchester United following the arrival of Brazilian talent Antony Santos.
Antony was acquired by Man Utd from Ajax, and he might play this weekend against Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time.
Erik ten Hag was aware that, if given the job of managing Manchester United this summer, he would have to find a method to balance the team’s offense.
The new United manager began applying his style of play in preseason, emphasizing flexibility and fluidity in his forward line. He used a trio of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho to lead his side.
Each of those players has a preferred role in attack, but crucially, they can all play in other roles too, something that is vital if they are to terrorise opposition defences with their perpetual movement and regular interchanging.
It worked, too. United were much improved during the summer schedule, though their performance level dropped in the penultimate pre-season fixture when Martial limped out of defeat to Atletico Madrid with an injury.
They lost twice without him at the start of the season proper. In the last two matches, Anthony Elanga has come into the side to fill a similar role, and although not as good as Martial, he has allowed them to return to the fluid set-up, and they have recorded two wins.
With the arrival of a right-wing expert this week, United’s favored strategy ought to improve even more. As the club’s second-most expensive acquisition ever, Antony will cost €95 million up front (including a solidarity payment to Sao Paulo) and €5 million in add-ons, therefore it is expected that he will need to start the majority of games.
As a result, Sancho may be most suited to play one of the two remaining attacking positions in United’s strongest XI.
The goal against Liverpool was the highlight of the England international’s strong season debut. He had a strong preseason showing on the right wing, but he appears much more at ease on the left.
Sancho, 22, was brought in to finally fix United’s right flank problems after more than ten years, but it hasn’t really worked that way.
It was a similar story in his final season with Borussia Dortmund, where he too played primarily in that position, where 27 of his 38 appearances came as an inverted forward on the left.
There is much less pressure to get Antony to perform as the right winger he was originally expected to be now that he is a member of the team.
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Ten Hag may instead concentrate on making the most of his abilities as an inverted striker by imitating the Brazilian’s attacking instincts on the opposing wing.
Given that the price tag on Antony’s head has already eclipsed Sancho’s own, which was £73 million, there is now perhaps less pressure on Sancho to perform, which means there should be less criticism of his own performance in the attacking line.
Sancho may soon play at his best in a United jersey thanks to playing with more freedom in a position that suits him more, and he may up up being the biggest beneficiary of the expensive move for Antony.
Ten Hag now has to cope with the strain of ensuring the talent on the wings, which costs £160 million, live up to their astronomical price tags.