At the same time Manchester United were suffering a dismal 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace in their Premier League season opener, Jadon Sancho was proving why is widely seen as the solution to the problems that exist at Old Trafford.
Indeed, there were only minutes between Crystal Palace’s third goal and Sancho’s assist in Borussia Dortmund comfortable 3-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach. Presented with the ball on the edge of his own penalty box, the 20-year-old left almost everyone in his wake as he surged 70 yards up the pitch before playing a perfect pass in behind for Erling Haaland to sweep a first-time shot into the back of the net.
It was a demonstration of why Manchester United want Sancho, and why Dortmund continue to insist on a fee of over €100 million for their prize asset. There are few as explosive as the young Englishman in the European game right now, but unlike so many wingers of his mould Sancho almost always has a final product.
For someone so young, Sancho’s decision-making in the final third is so remarkably sharp. He knows when to shoot and he knows when to pass. He knows when to dribble past three opposition defenders. It’s this instinct that helped Sancho to register an incredible 17 goals and 16 assists in 32 Bundesliga appearances last season.
There is little doubt Sancho would significantly improve Manchester United’s squad - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is desperate for a player like the Englishman on the right side of his attack - but would a move to Old Trafford really be a wise decision for him at this stage of his career?
At only 20 years old, there shouldn’t be any rush for Sancho to move on. And if the Englishman has his heart set on a move, he should be wary of the offer in front of him. Old Trafford is a challenging environment right now, with many doubting whether Solskjaer has the structural support to take Manchester United any further.
If, however, Sancho wants to play for a team where he can win and compete at the elite level of the sport, he might already be in the best place. Borussia Dortmund currently boast a special group of young players. It’s not just Sancho. It’s Haaland, the Norwegian striker who has scored 17 goals in 24 games since arriving from Red Bull Salzburg in January. It’s Gio Reyna, the American teenager who scored his first Bundesliga goal against Gladbach on Saturday.
It’s Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard and Jude Bellingham, the 17-year-old who picked Dortmund over Manchester United to further his development. That decision already looks to have been a wise one, with the former Birmingham City player making his debut in the win over the weekend.
Bayern Munich might appear untouchable as German and European champions, but Dortmund have the talent to at least push them. The Westfalenstadion outfit are closer to silverware than Manchester United are at this moment in time, with Lucien Favre’s side almost certain to improve further this season having finished second in the Bundesliga and making the last 16 of the Champions League last season.
Of course, the prospect of playing for a club as big as Manchester United remains an attractive one. Sancho may also feel the lure of his homeland having spent the last three years away from his family and friends in Germany. The 20-year-old knows Manchester well having come through the academy system at Manchester City.
Sancho must make a decision on the basis of what’s best for his career, though, and at Dortmund he could be a part of something special. Favre has forged one of the most exhilarating teams to watch in all of Europe. Last season, Dortmund lacked the mental fortitude to achieve the results their play warranted, but another year of development should see his young players get stronger in this regard.
As England's best young player in a generation–since the emergence of Wayne Rooney in the early 2000s–there is a lot of pressure on Sancho to plot the right route for his career. A return to the Premier League looks almost certain to happen at some point in the future. But Sancho must consider the risk-reward ratio of a potential move to Manchester United and how that compares to staying where he is for another season. To move forward in his career, Sancho doesn’t need a transfer.