Erik ten Hag has suggested that he may deploy Jadon Sancho in a No.10 role now that he has returned to the Man United fold. But how exactly would the star fit into the system?
Sancho made his first appearance since October when he came on during United’s Carabao Cup win over Nottingham Forest. For many Red Devils fans, seeing the England international smiling once more was a positive sign.
His manager, Erik ten Hag, was similarly happy to have Sancho back.
“I thought it was great,” said the United boss about his player’s return, via the club website. “The fans gave him love and I think he enjoyed it. He enjoyed being back on the pitch.
“I’ve seen [him] in the last couple of weeks at Carrington smiling, and I hope he can keep the process going and have a huge contribution to the season.
“With Jadon Sancho, I know he can play as a No.10 as well, he can play as a winger, he can play as a 10. But I think we mix it around often and that is what I like. But the position has to be occupied, it is about that. And players have to keep the discipline to do that – otherwise, it will be a mess.”
So, Sancho’s new lease of life at Old Trafford could come in the form of a position adjustment. In United’s case, he could help the team cope with a long-term injury miss.
Jadon Sancho playing No.10: how it could help United
Unfortunately, the Red Devils will be without one of their top performers for an extended period. Christian Eriksen picked up an ankle injury which will rule him out until May. Therefore, United’s starting midfield option, alongside holding mid, Casemiro, is unavailable.
Following news of Eriksen’s injury, Man United quickly secured a Deadline Day loan for Bayern midfielder Marcel Sabitzer. However, as he acclimates to English football, Jadon Sancho could help offer an interesting alternative.
So far, Eriksen has played in the No.8 role of United’s midfield, with Bruno Fernandes typically at the No.10 slot. Alternatively, Fred has played next to Casemiro to provide a double pivot.
One option that Erik ten Hag has is moving Bruno Fernandes back into the now-vacant No.8 slot. This would free up space for a new attacking midfielder. Jadon Sancho could certainly fill this void behind the striker; what credentials does he have to play as a No.10, though?
Sancho at Dortmund
Whilst at Borussia Dortmund, Sancho consistently demonstrated how devastating he could be with the ball in space.
Although starting on either wing when Dortmund played 4-2-3-1, the England international would frequently come inside and nearer the striker. This is because BVB’s full backs made overlapping runs, thus providing the team’s width instead.
During the 2019/20 season – where Sancho registered 17 goals and 16 assists in the Bundesliga – Dortmund often ran a 3-4-2-1 formation. In this setup, Sancho operated as a left or right forward. Therefore, he was regularly in space behind the striker, feeding passes and scoring from more central positions. This is not too dissimilar from what the attack midfield role would entail…
Sancho is also a good passer who can help string together play. Whilst in Germany, he averaged 2.6 key passes per game in the 2020/21 Bundesliga campaign. This is the exact same split that Bruno Fernandes is averaging in the Premier League this season from the attack midfield spot.
Furthermore, the England star put up double-digit assist numbers in three consecutive Bundesliga campaigns. He can clearly create chances for teammates when given the opportunity.
With Rashford and Antony occupying Man United’s flanks, Erik ten Hag might give Jadon Sancho a try in the No.10 spot. The Red Devils’ £73 million man may finally showcase his world-class talent to the Premier League in this fresh role.
Featured image credit: Getty