Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand has suggested that Manchester United’s failure to discover a suitable style of play is what has heavily impacted Jadon Sancho’s first season at the club.
Signed from German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund last summer in a deal worth almost £73million, Sancho, who was a long-term target for United, was expected to hit the ground running and take the Premier League by storm following his exploits in the Bundesliga.
However, his United career, so far, has failed to spark into life, highlighted by his tally of just three goals and zero assists in 24 appearances in all competitions.
Nevertheless, the England international showed signs of encouragement during United’s FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough on Friday evening, netting his first Old Trafford goal and producing a hard-working, energetic and uplifting performance.
Although it was a step in the right direction for the 21-year-old, who has started just ten Premier League games this season, Ferdinand believes his progress has been hampered by United’s style of play.
Ferdinand told Vibe with Five : “He played well [vs Middlesbrough] and it is about time he got some time. The game was played to his strengths a little bit with one-touch football, pass and move.
“If there is no rhythm in the team, Sancho is not as good and not as effective.
“I think that is what Sancho’s problem has been at Man United; the players, sometimes, have got to identify what he is actually good at and what his traits are.
“I think a lot of people expected Sancho to come in and be someone that can take the ball from the edge of his own and to the goal. That is not his game.
“He is very much about rhythm, one-touch passing, playing and getting people off balance with a little bit of a faint. He hasn’t been able to do that because the system at Man United is something that hasn’t worked yet .
“It has left him in a vulnerable position. But I think if he was to join another team, who have got a locked down way of playing and a true understanding of being a possession-based team, he would thrive.”
During his time at Dortmund, Sancho was playing with dynamic and young players, including Erling Haaland, whereas at United he has the task of supplying experienced figures such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani at the top end of the pitch.
But Ferdinand has played down suggestions that is what has impacted Sancho’s progression at Old Trafford, pointing to United’s failure to find a recognizable identity.
“The Borussia Dortmund team had a way of playing that was fundamental in allowing these players to perform at their best, whereas Man United have invested in some players but are still searching for an identity, a philosophy and a way of playing,” added Ferdinand .
“That makes it difficult for the players that are coming in, let alone the players are still there.
“It makes it a very different situation and I don’t think it is down to the youth, the pace and the willingness to run. The system and the way of playing is the overriding factor.
“Man United have not found that identity yet.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.