A more pressing concern than when Sancho signs for United is who they turn to. There are compelling cases it should be another striker, a defensive midfielder amid fatigue from Nemanja Matic or a center-back after an unconvincing campaign from Victor Lindelof and the disappointing alternatives.
United are counting on Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe to spend more time at the Carrington training grounds than at the medical center to put pressure on Lindelof. Bailly has, in all fairness, missed only one game since returning from a knee ligament injury which was caused by a collision with Harry Maguire in the FA Cup semi-finals.
By persevering with Matic as the only specialist defensive midfielder, United are taking a risk with a 32-year-old who needed a rest after five successive starts in the league. Scott McTominay may need to harness his offensive instinct to take over the risk aversion role he occupied under Jose Mourinho to accept the inaugural manager’s Player of the Year award.
When United budgeted for the summer before the football break it was with the intention of acquiring two strikers. They tried to set up part of a £ 65million deal for Jack Grealish, who Aston Villa didn’t care about, not wanting to converse as they gave up to avoid relegation.
Villa’s survival and Grealish’s talismanic end to the season added millions to his valuation and £ 80million is a fair asking price for a 24-year-old striker who is a Premier League club captain and aspires to play for England.
The irony is that United are seen as more accessible Grealish than James Maddison, also valued at around £ 80million, due to the possibility of Villa relegation and the likelihood of Leicester winning Champions League football. Ultimately, Leicester will be in the Europa League – in part due to Maddison’s hip injury – and United have become so cold on the 23-year-old that they have accepted Leicester’s offer of a improved contract.
United can take – for their online transfer junkies, anyway – a torturous time to finalize deals and it has been to their detriment. The one-at-a-time strategy last summer resulted in month-long negotiations for Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, the latter arriving at Carrington five days before the window closed with United running out of money. a striker and a midfielder. .
Moussa Dembele, Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Adrien Rabiot and Sean Longstaff have all been considered to varying degrees and in August Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba succumbed to injuries. The absence of another striker and midfielder was obvious as United collapsed to 14th at the end of October and took four wins in their first 14 league appearances.
United have more body at the front with the loan of Odion Ighalo extended until the New Year, Mason Greenwood a nerve-wracking first mate and Bruno Fernandes at the head of the orchestra. If they want to join the same stadium as Liverpool and Manchester City, signing Sancho still won’t be enough.
City can field three forwards with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden and that without mentioning the best player in the Premier League. Liverpool’s reserve trident is modest although Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi were the main winners. United’s third forward are Ighalo, James and Juan Mata.
United won’t stand in the way of Jesse Lingard if they receive an acceptable offer, Tahith Chong owe a season-long loan and Inter Milan are confident they will secure a permanent deal for Alexis Sanchez early in the window. Ighalo is expected to return to China in five months and Mata could be released next year, so United could (voluntarily) pull back five before in the next 12 months.
Solskjaer has previously warned that United cannot turn so heavily in European games midweek now that they are back in the Champions League. Spinning the trident and recalling players like Greenwood and Grealish, while resting Sancho and others, is the level required for United, hungry for success.
But they haven’t arrived yet.