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Why has Jadon Sancho Struggled at Manchester United So Far?

Jadon Sancho has struggled to fully get his Manchester United career off the ground. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

In July 2021, Manchester United signed Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund for €85m. When Sancho arrived, he was expected to become one of United’s most important players. While many people still believe he will fulfill his full potential at Old Trafford, it just hasn’t quite clicked yet for the Englishman.

Why Has Sancho Struggled So Far?

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One of the main reasons Sancho has struggled so far is he seems to be lacking in confidence. There’s no doubt that Sancho is immensely talented. He’s arguably one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier League but when he gets the ball, he looks like a player with very little self-belief. In possession, instead of taking on a defender and trying to make something happen, he usually just plays the simple pass. Even in games where he’s scored or assisted, he’s struggled to impact games consistently throughout the full 90 minutes.

The lack of stability has also affected Sancho’s performance. While Sancho had good periods last season and even won United’s internal player of the month for February, he still wasn’t anywhere near his best and he was struggling for consistency. The Englishman is only just entering his second season at the club and has already played under three managers. It’s hard enough for a young player to come into a new team and having to adapt to a new league, but it becomes even harder when things for his team aren’t going to plan on the pitch.

The Statistics

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Sancho has had a few good moments this season, but he’s really struggled to impact games throughout the full 90 minutes. At Borussia Dortmund from the 2018/19 to 2020/21 season, Sancho averaged around 73 touches per 90. However, during his time at United, he’s only averaged around 50 touches per 90 which is a lot less than what he averaged during those 3 seasons at Dortmund. He simply isn’t as involved in games as he was at Dortmund.

From the 2018/19-2020/21 season in the Bundesliga, Sancho averaged nearly seven attempted dribbles per game, completing just over four of them on average which is extremely impressive. However, since joining United, Sancho has only averaged 3.35 dribbles per 90 in the Premier League, completing 1.87 of them on average. His chance creation has also dropped significantly. From the 2018/19-2020/21 season in the Bundesliga, Sancho created a total of 46 big chances, averaging 15.3 big chances created per season. In his 37 Premier League appearances for United, he’s only created a total of five big chances. Less chances created also obviously means less assists. In those three seasons at Dortmund where he played regularly, he picked up 41 Bundesliga assists, averaging 13.67 assists per season. However, last season in the Premier League, he only managed three assists and still hasn’t picked one up so far this season.

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In regards to scoring goals, Sancho has obviously also dropped off in this aspect. In his 150 appearances for Borussia Dortmund, Sancho scored 50 times averaging 1 goal every 3 games. During his time at United, Sancho has found the back of the net 8 times in 50 appearances, averaging a goal every 6.25 games. His volume of shots has also dropped a lot. In the 3 Bundesliga seasons where he played regularly, he averaged 1.9 shots per 90 but last season in the Premier League, he only averaged 1.23 shots per 90 — that’s dropped off even more so far this season as he’s only averaged 0.74 shots per 90 in the Premier League.

How Does He Get Back To His Best?

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United have to find a way to get the best out of Sancho and there’s two ways United can do this. The first way is giving him freedom. He’s currently lacking self-confidence and a way to solve this would be Ten Hag giving him the freedom to express himself even if that means losing the ball more often. By being given more freedom, it should encourage him to take more risks which would likely lead to more goals and assists. That would hopefully help him find his confidence again and help him get back to his best. This solution is quite simplistic but sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

Another potential solution to Sancho’s current predicament is using him as an attacking midfielder. For whatever reason, Bruno Fernandes hasn’t been at his best for a while now and Sancho certainly has attributes which are suited to playing as the number 10. Dominating possession is a cornerstone of Erik ten Hag’s footballing philosophy and that means being patient in build-up play. Fernandes’ game is based around taking risks. He often likes to play risky passes to create clear-cut chances and while that’s good, those types of passes aren’t successful very often meaning they regularly lead to United losing possession.

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As shown this season, Sancho is a very composed finisher centrally in the box. His goals against Leicester, Sheriff Tiraspol and especially Liverpool showed this. He’s also a competent ball carrier and a very creative player. The 22-year-old is also quite a good ball carrier, tidy with his passing and he’s also an intelligent player. While there’s no guarantee it would work, trying Sancho as an attacking midfielder is something worth trying.


Sancho is a player that should eventually flourish under Erik ten Hag as he suits his style which still hasn’t been fully implemented yet. At the moment, for whatever reason, Sancho seems to be lacking confidence. He had a really good pre-season but has struggled to replicate that form in competitive games. He’s a player that could go on to be a crucial player for Manchester United in the next 10 years if he can fulfill his potential. Sancho is now working under a manager who’s very good at developing players and Ten Hag will do everything possible to get the best out of him but in the end, it’s up to Sancho to show everyone what he’s capable of.

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