With the summer transfer window looming ever closer you can almost hear the war chests being opened.
Football may be facing its biggest economic crisis ever in the wake of the pandemic, but it doesn’t seem as though that will stop the world’s biggest clubs from opening their wallets and proceeding with the biddings wars.
This summer’s never-ending saga looks set to star Erling Haaland, with the travelling sales team of Mino Raiola and his father Alf Inge Haaland in supporting roles, and Manchester United will inevitably be embroiled.
Haaland has become the world’s most sought-after player after a staggering goal return since his move to Borussia Dortmund, and M.E.N. Sport understands that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and football director John Murtough have settled on him as their priority striker target.
Yet the competition for the Norwegian sensation is going to be fierce. Despite Pep Guardiola’s comments to the contrary, Manchester City have money burning an elephant-sized hole in their pockets and have been planning to add a new striker this summer for at least a year.
Sergio Aguero’s imminent departure and Haaland’s rise to stardom couldn’t have coincided at a better time for the Blues and they are the best-placed team to sign him.
But Manchester’s clubs aren’t the only ones in the race, with Barcelona and Real Madrid already holding meetings with Haaland’s representatives and Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are all being touted.
Yep, Haaland’s future is bound to dominate this summer’s transfer fracas.
United know exactly how time-consuming and distracting such sagas can be, with last year’s furore over Jadon Sancho meaning they didn’t conduct the majority of their business until deadline day.
Yet, with all eyes now on Haaland, Sancho seems abandoned like last year’s hot new toy and perhaps United can sneak in while attentions are diverted and finally snag their man.
United have already failed in three previous attempts to sign the winger but the M.E.N. revealed on Monday that they are not ruling out making another move this summer, with his value decreasing due to a number of factors.
While United are prioritising a new centre-forward, and that does make sense considering the uncertainty surrounding Edinson Cavani’s future, opting to sign Sancho instead could prove to be a masterstroke.
Although he hasn’t been grabbing the headlines thanks to his teammate’s exploits, Sancho himself has an excellent goal record that would make the vast majority of the world’s strikers jealous. In 130 games for Dortmund he has an impressive 46 strikes to his name, mostly from wide positions, and that’s on top of a ridiculous 60 assists.
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Manchester United fought back superbly to beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 on Sunday afternoon.
After a VAR row following United’s disallowed goal in the first half, Son Heung-Min opened the scoring for Spurs. But United came roaring back in the second half to win, with goals from Fred, Edinson Cavani and Mason Grenwood.
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Even this season, in which he hasn’t been at his best quite as consistently, he still has 12 goals to his name and a further 16 assists. Sancho’s output over the last three seasons has been extraordinary and let’s not forget he is still only 21 years of age. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have set near unattainable standards over their careers but Sancho is already reaching them.
Signing Sancho would bring the almost guaranteed goals to Old Trafford United are seeking with Haaland but likely for half the price and half the stress, as well as much more tactical flexibility.
If United did manage to bring in Haaland – and make no mistake it would be fantastic if they did – there is no chance that anyone else would be dislodging him from that No.9 role for the duration of his stay. And for good reason.
Yet that would be a shame for Marcus Rashford and especially Mason Greenwood. With United’s lack of natural, quality wingers in the squad, the pair have had to be used on the flanks, and have done a great job at doing so, but both would rather be playing through the middle.
Rashford has an impressive 20 goals this season despite being out on the left and Greenwood’s talents are beginning to shine through again after a slow start to the campaign. A fine goal and assist in Sunday’s win against Tottenham being just the latest examples.
There’s no telling what either of them could achieve if given a lengthy and unimpeded stint as the main man in the middle.
The addition of Sancho, who is comfortable on either flank, would free up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to utilise either of his exciting attackers, who remain young themselves, in their most favoured positions while still bringing in a fresh source of goals. An attacking trio of Greenwood, Rashford and Sancho sounds devastatingly quick, dynamic and thrilling. I can already hear poor full-backs quaking in their boots.
So not only would signing Sancho solve United’s need for a first-team ready right-winger, as well as bringing a striker’s worth of goals with him, but he would also negate the need for a new striker to be signed by freeing up Greenwood or Rashford to take the role. Two birds, one extremely talented stone.
Bringing in Sancho does risk taking up a sizeable chunk of the budget and probably forfeiting the chance of signing a generational talent in Haaland. Yet United being the destination Haaland opts for seems unlikely and if the club gets caught up in the race they could once again miss out on the player they have really wanted for a number of years.
If United can sign Sancho early in the window then they can avoid the Haaland circus and focus their energies on the other positions that need some attention – such as centre-back and defensive-midfield – instead of leaving it all to the last minute again.
Haaland would be a dream signing, but Sancho could be the smartest one.