Manchester United must try new solution to fix right-wing issue thanks to Jadon Sancho form – Tyrone Marshall

The spotlight at Old Trafford is shining brightly on Ralf Rangnick and Sascha Lense at the moment, the interim manager and his sports psychologist who need to find solutions to issues that are threatening to completely derail an already disappointing season.

Manchester United’s trio of successive 1-1 draws, which have all followed the same pattern of a half-time lead and an encouraging 45 minutes, followed by a second half that allows the opposition back into the game, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy for a team that can’t clear their heads when the roll of the dice goes against them.

That collective weakness doesn’t look great for Rangnick or Lense, but in their time at United, there have been triumphs. Rangnick wanted his coaching recruit to have individual chats with players and if there is one success story for the pair of them since the end of November it is Jadon Sancho.

Rangnick has devised a structured attacking system that is allowing the 21-year-old to shine and his confidence has been transformed in recent weeks.

Against Middlesbrough, Burnley and Southampton he has looked like the player who terrorized Bundesliga defences. Suddenly Sancho is relishing running with the ball, a throwback winger who can cause mayhem in defenses. It’s a stark contrast to the £73million player who looked to be reluctant to leave his shell in the first few months of this season.

“Jadon, I’ve known since he was 17 when he still played in England,” Rangnick said. “I contacted him and his agent when he was 17 and tried to convince him to join us at Leipzig, in the end he decided to go to Dortmund and had a great time there. His development there, he became one of the best wingers in the league, if not in Europe.

“The step to a club like Manchester United is a big one for anyone, at the time a 21-year-old, that was a massive step and this takes time.

“The style of football we play fits perfectly with his assets and his strengths, coming from the left side and I also try to show him and give him my support, tell him he should have a go even in this league, it’s more physical, more competitive and the same happened with other players who played in those positions.

“And the same will hopefully happen in the next couple of weeks with a player like Marcus Rashford, who did well in the last couple of weeks. This is what it’s about: to get the best out of players, play in their best possible position and, in this club, also helping them cope with the pressure and the level of expectations that is different from when he came to Dortmind at the age of 17.”

But the interesting aspect of Sancho’s sudden elevation above the mediocrity that is engulfing his teammates is the fact it’s coming on the left wing when he was signed to be a problem solver on the right.

That flank has been an issue for United for several years and Sancho was considered the solution, a right-footer playing on the right. He wasn’t solely used there for Borussia Dortmund, however. In fact, he started 15 games on the left last season for Dortmund, compared to 14 on the right and nine in a more central position.

Now it’s down the left that he’s finding his feet at United. In this position he has the possibility to go inside and outside his full-back, making the equation for the defender even trickier.

Marcus Rashford has started on the right in the last three games and having never swapped wings against Middlesbrough, there has been the odd switch against Burnley and Southampton.

Rashford is far more comfortable on the left than on the right. He was forced into action on the right at times last season and that is when his confidence in him really started to plummet. Things come more naturally to him cutting in from the left.

The problem is that’s the case for every United winger at the moment. Anthony Elanga has come on as a substitute in the last three games, twice for Rashford, and while he is another player more at home on the left, it feels like Rangnick has to consider a fresh solution on his problem flank.

Elanga could be that option. The academy graduate has played with fearlessness this season and while he is inexperienced as a right-winger, he is worth a go.

The only other possibility is to give Jesse Lingard a go on the right. The 29-year-old certainly isn’t a winger, but he has the game intelligence to understand what is required from that role and could link play well with Diogo Dalot and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Rashford struggled again at Old Trafford on Saturday and there were some ironic cheers when he was replaced. It feels like the time is right to try something different on the right-wing, a problem position United just cannot fix.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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