Manchester United fans, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for that matter, have imagined for the last year, maybe more, how Jadon Sancho would fit into the team at Old Trafford. That’s how long they chased the Borussia Dortmund winger for before finally agreeing a deal worth a reported €85m with the Bundesliga club.
There has, however, been so much focus on how Sancho’s transfer will change things for United that there has been very little consideration of how Dortmund will be affected. The 21-year-old was a key part of their team – so how will they replace him? How will the Black and Yellows move on from Sancho?
A number of replacements have been linked with a move to the Westfalenstadion. Donyell Malen is one such player having shone for the Netherlands at Euro 2020 this summer. The 22-year-old is one of the brightest young attacking prospects in the European game right now and Dortmund, who have a reputation for harnessing youth, would be a good fit for him.
Malen, though, is not a winger like Sancho is. He can operate in a wide role, but his natural instinct is to drive into the centre where he can pose the greatest goal threat. The Dutchman would improve Borussia Dortmund’s squad, but he wouldn’t arrive as a direct replacement for Sancho.
Marcus Thuram is, however, a wide man. What’s more, he has worked under new Dortmund manager Marco Rose during their time together at Borussia Monchengladbach. While Thuram predominantly plays on the left side, rather than on the right where Manchester United plan on using their new signing, Sancho frequently played on that wing for the Black and Yellows.
Tottenham Hotspur have been linked with a move for Thuram, but the environment at Borussia Dortmund might be better for the Frenchman to take the next step in his career. After all, he has already proven himself in the Bundesliga for Rose. This would be a wise way for Dortmund to re-invest some of the Sancho money.
Dortmund might, however, look within to find a replacement for Sancho. Gio Reyna, who can play anywhere across the attacking line, is well known to the fans at the Westfalenstadion having been a first team figure there for the last two seasons. The American continues to grow and improve and could be capable of stepping into the shoes of his former English teammate.
It could be the case that Rose has some new tactical ideas that mean he doesn’t need a direct replacement for Sancho on the wing, but Borussia Dortmund must continue to develop their team. That might require some investment, or it might require a shift in focus towards a handful of prospects already on their books (see 16-year-old wunderkind Youssoufa Moukoko).
Rose has plenty to work with in his new job, even if he won’t get the opportunity to coach Sancho. One benefit of the England international’s impending sale to Manchester United for a club record fee is that Erling Haaland will now most likely stay at the Westfalenstadion for at least another season.
Speculation has swirled around Haaland for months with Manchester City and Manchester United both believed to be keen on the Norwegian striker. Fees of well over €100m have been mentioned, but the sale of Sancho means Borussia Dortmund can afford to sit on their prize asset for the time being.
Finding a replacement for a player as talented as Sancho will be difficult, but Rose will now be spared having to compensate for the goals that would have walked out the door with the sale of Haaland. That would have put the former Gladbach boss on the back foot from the start in his new position.
Few youngsters have made the impact Sancho did on the Bundesliga over the last three seasons. The switch the Englishman made to Germany as a teenager could hardly have panned out any better. At Dortmund, he matured into one of the best wide creators in the European game. He will be worth every penny of the €85m United are paying for him.
Yet there’s no reason for despair at the Westfalenstadion. It’s the core of Borussia Dortmund’s model as a club to cultivate young players and sell them on for big fees. That’s exactly what they have done with Sancho and there is enough talent already at the club to keep the wheels of progress moving forward.