Manchester United have spent £119million on three right wingers across the last two summer transfer windows. This year, they are looking for another as Erik ten Hag looks to finally bring balance to an attack which has long lacked a right-sided specialist.
Jadon Sancho was hailed as somewhat of a bargain when he arrived for £73m last summer, with his sizeable fee juxtaposed with the £108m which Borussia Dortmund had demanded a year earlier.
United had, in effect, saved themselves £35m by holding their own in the market and had been rewarded for their patience, but twelve months on and Sancho’s signing doesn’t look like quite the steal it once did.
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Having missed out on Sancho in the 2020 window, United acted quickly to lure both Amad and Facundo Pellistri to the club in the hope they would solve their right wing issue. Club sources insisted that both had been long-term targets and efforts were amplified to sign them both when it became abundantly clear a deal for Sancho would not materialise.
They represent another £46m of investment which is yet to bear fruit, with the young forwards both underwhelming out on loan at lesser clubs this season.
After such hefty spending in one area of the pitch, it would be difficult to endorse the move for another right winger this summer, even if that is something currently of interest to Ten Hag.
Instead, the club would be well within their right to instruct the new manager to get the best out of those already at his disposal rather than spend more on an area of the pitch which might already have an internal answer.
A key task for Ten Hag next season will be to get the best out of Sancho; even more so, it will be to make him an effective Premier League right winger as well.
Despite being signed to address the problem position, Sancho actually made 27 of his 38 appearances last season on the left wing. He looked at his best when he was able to cut inside, beat defenders, and use wider angles to curve efforts towards goal rather.
Playing on the right wing, Sancho will have far fewer opportunities to do that and instead will need to move into inside channels if he is to make a telling impact in front of goal and will need to perfect out-swinging deliveries into the box.
While it might not be his preferred way of playing at the moment, it is crucial that Ten Hag manages to improve him in such a role next season, and integral to that will be who he selects at right-back.
Part of the reason United have struggled on the right so often has been as much about the lack of support from full-back as it has been about the shortcomings of their attacking options there.
Ten Hag has already informed Aaron Wan-Bissaka he won’t be part of his plans next season, with United having offered his services to other clubs, while Diogo Dalot has been told he still has a future at Old Trafford.
That move signals the Dutchman’s intent to offer more of an attacking threat from full-back and it is understood the club are also looking at new right-backs if an appropriate deal can be struck this summer.
Man City and Liverpool have both benefited immensely from having full-backs who can supplement their attacking threat, and it is clear that if United want to dominate more matches next season, then they will need to modernize the manner in which they utilize their wide defenders .
That addition of a creative threat from right-back, one who can get forward to support the right winger with overlapping and underlapping runs into the final third, could in turn bring the best out of Sancho by giving him the time and space to play in the inside channels and have a greater threat in front of goal.
Ten Hag might want to sign a new winger to bring balance to his attack, but just as important will be the player he chooses in defence.
Sancho might be all right after all.