Solskjaer confident as club prepare Sancho bid
United hopeful of reaching agreement with Dortmund Manager wants attacking options and central defender
Manchester United will not be bound by any artificial deadline in the pursuit of their leading summer transfer target, Jadon Sancho, as the club press ahead with recruitment plans now Champions League qualification has been secured.
United have yet to submit a formal bid for Sancho, despite reports in Germany yesterday that they had made an opening £89million offer to Borussia Dortmund for the England winger.
Dortmund are holding out for €120 million (£110 million), which far exceeds United’s valuation, particularly given how finances have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. But there remains a belief that a compromise will be reached, with both parties wanting to strike a deal.
Dortmund are due to resume training on Aug 10, ahead of the new Bundesliga season, and want negotiations resolved by then, but United are not prepared to be held to such a deadline. However, despite some posturing, relations between the clubs are good.
Sancho is entering the final two years of his contract and, while there are claims Dortmund would be happy to let him reach the final 12 months of his deal, their model revolves around cashing in when their chips are at the highest value and overlooks the player’s desire to move to Old Trafford.
Dortmund have already begun searching for replacements for Sancho in the event he departs. United favour an incentivised payment structure that reflects Sancho’s age, potential and relative inexperience.
Having trailed Leicester City by 14 points in the wake of their wretched 2-0 home defeat by Burnley on Jan 22, Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brendan Rodgers’s side completed a turnaround in United’s fortunes and secured a top-three finish.
Champions League football next season could be worth up to £100million in revenues for United but the club have been severely impacted by the pandemic and, with potential further hits to matchday income to come, they have repeatedly distanced themselves from the idea of a summer splurge in the transfer market. Removing Alexis Sanchez’s £400,000-a-week salary from the wage bill will also be necessary to help free up cash.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s main focus is strengthening the right-sided forward position, which he hopes will be filled by Sancho, to provide more quality attacking options to complement Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes. It would also enable him to use Greenwood as a central forward more, even though United have looked at strikers. Solskjaer would like to bring in another centre-back but, with seven already on the club’s books, it is expected United will need to clear the decks before recruiting. Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are surplus to requirements.
Chris Smalling is due to return to United next month with his loan arrangement with Roma not permitting him to play for the Italian club in the Europa League. Smalling is thought to be waiting for clarity over United’s position on him before deciding on his next step. The door is not entirely closed on a return to Solskjaer’s squad but he could depart, possibly going back to Roma.
Dean Henderson is hoping for greater clarity over his own future before he goes on holiday later this week. The goalkeeper, who has impressed on loan for the past two seasons at Sheffield United, wants to be Old Trafford’s No1 and is opposed to coming back as David de Gea’s understudy.
Champions League qualification has given United a platform on which to build next season amid the momentum fostered by an unbeaten 14-match run in the Premier League and improved playing style.
No top-flight side secured more points (32) than United over that period but the challenge of bridging the gap to champions Liverpool and Manchester City over a 38-game campaign remains significant. United finished closer to the relegation zone (32pts) than they did to the top (33pts) and still acquired the same number of points as last season (66), when they finished sixth, having won one game fewer this term.
Only once since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 have United finished a Premier League season with more than 80 points (81 in 2017-18, when they came second under Jose Mourinho) but the average number of points required over the past four seasons to win the championship is 97.5. By contrast, United’s points average during that time is 70.5.