Manchester United: Jadon Sancho's future at Old Trafford is clear now after this season
When Manchester United spent €85 million on Jadon Sancho, it was generally considered good value for money. The Red Devils were infatuated with the star, tried to sign him the summer before and paying less than nine figures was thought by some to be good going for one of the hottest young players in the world.
Fast-forward a year and a half and the perception is quite different. Just 14 goals and assists in almost 60 matches is less than expected, while new signings have joining limited his game-time significantly. It was Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, while Antony's arrival has almost been as a direct replacement for the 22-year-old.
So where does Sancho go from here? Well, actually… it's pretty straightforward where his Manchester United future lies.
In the short to mid-term, Manchester United should use Jadon Sancho at right-wing instead of Antony
It's easy to see why Antony would seem like a Jadon Sancho replacement: the pair are very similar and actually, Sancho began the season on the right wing. Both have a great first touch and both are creative-minded, but neither are explosive from a standstill like Marcus Rashford is. Both Antony and Sancho can beat a man, sure – but neither are quick or athletic enough to really become elite wide players in isolation.
The two differ, too, though. Sancho is right-footed, able to stretch play more naturally, while Antony looks to cut in. Antony is versed in what Ten Hag wants out of possession, too, which is perhaps why he's been favoured on that side – and though he doesn't often have the burst to break free of his marker, he's adept at holding up play nicely on that side until Bruno Fernandes or Diogo Dalot join him.
Sancho, however, is a much better passer and linker. At Borussia Dortmund – where he actually played on the right a lot more – he was elite at that intricate play, though he had a world-class right-back behind him in Achraf Hakimi. Long-term, Sancho could be the better fit there with an overlapping full-back of that quality.
There's also the Bruno Fernandes factor. When he first moved to United, Fernandes moved far more from side-to-side than box-to-box, combining with both wingers. Combining with Sancho is paramount for him to thrive and whoever plays nearest to him needs to help create an overload, since he looks lost when on his own, trying to beat his man for pace.
A top-level right-back could unlock Sancho, while a midfielder offering himself as support would help, too. The England star is certainly an option there right now, anyway, for breaking down deep blocks to throw onto the right flank and ask to whip crosses and find through-balls – but one would assume this is the best fit for Sancho at United.
In the long-term, Sancho could actually be better suited as a midfielder
If Sancho could hone his craft as an attack-minded midfielder in a 4-3-3, he could find a new niche. It's a similar thing to Harvey Elliott at Liverpool: neither player is explosive enough to truly tear full-backs apart out wide but both players are intricate and neat enough to function as midfielders.
Sancho has superb intelligence as a footballer, he's a creative passer and actually, this set-up might suit United as a team a little better. Bruno Fernandes has come under fire for his performances in big games, while the 4-3-3 lends itself better against better opponents. Plenty of wingers have moved in-field when they haven't been able to offer the same kind of physicality on the wing, with someone like Angel Di Maria being a prime example for Sancho to follow.
For now, however, the right-wing slot is a realistic role for him to hold down if he can challenge Antony. Sancho was lighting up Europe in that position before his move to United – he might well start doing so should a new full-back be signed, too.