Ahead of the upcoming 2021 summer transfer window, despite Manchester United’s key transfer priorities being centre-back and a centre forward, they have still not ended their interest in Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
Sancho was United’s priority transfer target last summer, but the club was unable to negotiate personal terms with the England international’s representative and Dortmund refused to sanction the transfer, which led to the club signing right-sided young attackers Amad and Facundo Pellestri.
The Manchester Evening News understands that Manchester United are refusing to rule out a move for Sancho in the summer, amid Dortmund’s apparent willingness to sell the winger, with the Bundesliga side’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke admitting that the club would be prepared to sell the winger for an ‘exceptional offer’.
“I’m not getting involved in probabilities, it’s no good. Jadon Sancho has been with us much longer than Erling Haaland. We’ll have to speak to Jadon, too,” Watzke told DAZN last week.
“If there is an exceptional offer we will discuss it with the player and the agent, as always.”
This got us thinking, just how big an impact could Sancho have at United if the winger signed for the club this summer?
To find out, and have a bit of fun, we used Football Manager 2021 to simulate the future and see what could happen.
We ‘signed’ Jadon Sancho for Man United in the summer of 2021
To set up this simulation, we used the Football Manager 2021 editor to arrange for Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho to join Man United on July 1, 2021 using FM21 to run our simulation.
Football Manager (FM) is the world’s leading football management simulation title. The latest edition of the game, FM21, is out now on PC, Mac, Mobile, Touch and Xbox.
The Football Manager database currently contains data on more than 800,000 individuals and 45,000 active clubs.
Data is sourced from their international on the ground scouting network which numbers roughly 1,000 people, among their ranks are some who are involved in football in professional capacities, including scouts and coaches.
This is what Sancho’s profile looks like on FM21 as of July 2021 in-game.
Along with Sancho, which was a transfer manually added in by us, United also signed midfielder Nicolo Barella from Inter, in what was a big summer in terms of transfer output, but only two players in total were brought in.
With Sancho in the United squad next season, this is what happened!
Jadon Sancho’s 2021/22 season for United
Sancho was an integral part of the Manchester United team during the 2021/22 season, playing as a right forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation in the majority of his appearances, although he did also make a few appearances on the left too.
The 21-year-old had an impressive first season at United, showcasing his outstanding creative quality.
In 52 appearances in all competitions, Sancho registered 24 assists and scored nine goals.
This included six goals and 17 assists in 35 Premier League appearances, with three goals and 5 assists in just nine Champions League appearances for the Reds.
His creative output was off the charts, with the winger registering more assists than any other United player in 2021/22, more than Bruno Fernandes, Nicolo Barella, Paul Pogba etc.
And Sancho also finished at the top of the Premier League assists chart, with the winger registering five more assists than the joint-second best creators Dele Alli and teammate Barella.
At the end of the 2021/22 season, Football Manager 2021 put together an overall best United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics.
This is how the best United XI looked in 2021/22 according to FM21.
Full United best XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Pogba, Barella; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
So, how did United perform in all competitions in our simulated season with Sancho in the squad?
United’s 2021/22 season with Sancho
Here is how the final 2020/21 PL table looked once our simulation finished at the end of May 2022.
Manchester United had a decent campaign, finishing second and earning 81 points in 38 games, finishing eight points behind Manchester City, who eventually won the league title.
The big difference between United and City was their defensive records, with City conceding only 26 whilst United conceded 35.
But Solskjaer’s side also lacked a clinical finisher, because with Cavani gone, Rashford finished as the club’s top goalscorer with just 21 in all competitions, including 14 in the Premier League.
United only lost five games in the entire season, to put that into context, United have lost four games in 31 matches so far during the current campaign.
And United also won a major trophy, with Barella, Rashford and Donny van de Beek scoring in a 3-0 win against Tottenham in the FA Cup Final.
In the Champions League, United reached the quarter-final but eventually lost out to Bayern Munich, 5-2 on aggregate.
Football Manager 2021 predicts that Sancho would be a great signing for Manchester United next season, offering a major creative and goal-scoring outlet from the right side of attack, something United have been missing for years.
With Sancho on the right, Fernandes in the centre and Rashford from the left, with Pogba and Barella/McTominay/Fred behind them, United would have one of the most exciting midfield lineups in the Premier League.
But this simulation also suggests that if United don’t strengthen their defence this summer, and sign an out-and-out striker, a Premier League title may just be out of reach, even with Sancho.
As always these simulations are just one way of predicting a player’s prospective impact, but it’s interesting to see how FM21 predicts the future could play out if Sancho did sign for United in July 2021.
*Football Manager (FM) is the world’s leading football management simulation title. The latest edition of the game, FM21, is out now on PC, Mac, Mobile, Touch and Xbox.
The Football Manager database currently contains data on more than 800,000 individuals and 45,000 active clubs, with data sourced from their international on the ground scouting network which numbers roughly 1,000 people, among their ranks are some who are involved in football in professional capacities, including scouts and coaches.