If ever there was a case study to demonstrate the lack of forward planning at Manchester United, it would be the transfer saga of Jadon Sancho.
Two years ago, he was identified as the top target by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he looked to rejuvenate his attack and finally address a long-term lack of investment on the right wing.
Dortmund named their price of £108million for their services, set a firm deadline and waited as United hesitated and tried to negotiate below the demands of the German club.
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They didn’t get him.
It’s widely accepted that a team doing business on transfer deadline day is one which is poorly run. United ended up signing four players to compliment the previous addition of Donny van de Beek, a player they were offered when his proposed move to Real Madrid fell through.
Of those four deadline day signings, two were wingers. United committed up to £37m on Amad from Atalanta and another £9m on Facundo Pellistri from Penarol. Both had been looked at for a long time, though neither of them would have been signed that summer had the Sancho deal gone through.
Having spent a combined £46m on two teenage right wingers, many fans thought United would be done in that position for the foreseeable future, but by the end of the season, Sancho was back on the radar again.
This time, with a year left on his contract and the worldwide pandemic still affecting revenues, Dortmund were happy to lower their demands.
Sancho signed a five-year contract after a £73m deal was struck. United had effectively saved £35m on the cost of the same player in the space of a year, taking their grand total to £119m spent on three young right wingers.
A year later, and United are once again in the market for a right-sided attacker.
There is some mitigation this summer given the Mason Greenwood situation, which has left United without their only left-footed right wing option, but with so much money invested in the position already, it is hard to have any sympathy for their lack of depth.
If you buy well once, you don’t have to buy again, and it speaks volumes that United could be looking at their fourth right-wing addition in under three years in the upcoming window.
Amad has experienced a poor loan at Rangers and looks like he’ll need another next season before he is ready for the pressure of playing for United, and Pellistri has also failed to set the world alight with Alaves.
It means Sancho is the only one of the three with the potential to play as a right winger next season, though 27 of his 38 appearances have come on the left this campaign, and the majority of his appearances for Dortmund came on that wing too.
Instead, it seems like United signed two teenage stop-gaps to appease fans in-between pursuits of Sancho, before finally getting the man they wanted, only to then realize he didn’t actually play in the position they thought he would.
There have been brief glimpses of genuine world-class talent from the England international on the left wing this season, and the task for Erik ten Hag will be to find a way to extract such brilliance from him on a regular basis.
However, with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga and now Alejandro Garnacho, also competing for a left wing role, it is hard to justify Sancho as a candidate for the position when he was actually signed for the opposite flank.
Ten Hag needs to find a way to bring balance to an attack that has a plethora of left-sided options, and if someone at the club can make the right wing their own, then the need for another attacker this summer will be significantly eased.
United need the right winger in more ways than one.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.