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A change of position and chats with Rangnick - How Sancho found his form at Man Utd

13:00 GMT+4 15/02/2022
Jadon Sancho Manchester United
The ex-Dortmund winger was this week compared to Robert Lewandowski by his manager having delivered glittering performances over the last few weeks

When Manchester United secured the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, the hope was that they had finally addressed a problem position that had troubled the club for a decade. 

Not since Cristiano Ronaldo’s first stint at Old Trafford have they had a player who could dominate the attack down the right wing and the England international was viewed as the solution to their problems. 

It is ironic that the 21-year-old has found good form down the opposite flank. 

Sancho’s start was so slow that it even led to reports that the club were trying to offload him in January.

That was never the case and his upturn in form in the last few weeks could not have come at a better time with the rest of the front-line now stuttering. 

He has scored two goals in the last three games – as many as he managed in his previous 23 – and he has started delivering the sparkling performances which saw him light up the Bundesliga with Dortmund.

Over the last three games, Sancho has looked like a totally different player. 

Club staff were keen to avoid piling pressure on the ex-Manchester City youth when he arrived and there was a feeling that the expectancy that comes with being a £73m ($101m) transfer at a club the size of Man Utd was impacting the winger. 

Illness delayed his pre-season and, while he was left playing catch-up to get fully fit to the standards expected, he struggled for game time, starting just three of the first 10 league games.

The pressure of his big-money move got to Sancho and the club have worked with him to build up his confidence and belief. 

Ralf Rangnick and the United coaching staff have had individual chats with the forward in which they have encouraged him to be confident and take on opponents.

We are starting to see the results. 

His average number of shots per game has increased from 1.4 to 2.3 in the last three games compared to his first 23 appearances, which means he is averaging a shot every 35 minutes compared to every 78.

He is now also averaging a shot on target per game compared to one every 2.7 games previously. 

Sancho’s passing accuracy has also jumped from 84.8 percent to 88.5% but, most importantly, he is playing with a directness and a swagger which shows his confidence is starting to return. 

“This is also a normal reaction for the player if he realises he is getting better, that he is scoring goals, that he is giving assists of course this helps to raise his confidence,” Rangnick said ahead of United's Premier League clash against Brighton on Tuesday. 

There is clearly still room for further improvement. Clips showing the England international failing to track back have led to him being criticised but he is not on his own in that aspect.

The team’s lack of pressing without the ball was pointed out by opposition manager Ralph Hasenhuttl on Saturday. 

 “It’s not a big secret that when they lose the ball, the reverse gears are not the best from everyone,” the Southampton manager said.  

With the forwards fluffing their lines and averaging just 1.4 goals per game under Rangnick, the German manager will no doubt excuse Sancho of some of his defensive duties if he can get the rest of his strikeforce firing. 

One of the issues which comes with Sancho finding form down the left is that the right side of the attack is still a problem.

Marcus Rashford does not look as confident over there and even when the pair switch during games, it is clear they both prefer the left. 

“I think he is one of the players who now benefits from our style of football, playing from the left side is also something that suits him,” Rangnick said.

“I remember the first season of Robert Lewandowski at Dortmund he was not regularly playing and only in the second year he had the breakthrough.

"I’m pretty positive that Jadon is on the right pathway, now that he realises he can be successful and one of the best wingers in the Premier League, not only the German Bundesliga. 

“The only thing I and my coaching staff did was show belief in him and with a few other younger players – Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga are two other examples and this is the only way we can develop young players at a club like Manchester United.”

Those in the background have always been confident Sancho would find his feet in the Premier League.

It has taken longer than some were expecting but with United struggling for goals and points, it has been one of the few positives in a bleak few weeks for the club. 

The hope is now that he can take his newfound confidence to push himself, and the team, to the next level.