Sol­sk­jaer con­fi­dent as club pre­pare San­cho bid

United hope­ful of reach­ing agree­ment with Dort­mund Man­ager wants at­tack­ing op­tions and cen­tral de­fender

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Ducker

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.

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