Manchester United are in danger of looking desperate in the transfer market as the Jadon Sancho saga continues to drag on without a breakthrough. Meanwhile, the likelihood of having to seriously consider alternatives now raises the possibility of United being taken advantage of by other clubs.
Despite United being confident of landing Sancho this summer for the past year, a stalemate with Borussia Dortmund over price threatens to leave the Old Trafford club without their primary target when the transfer window closes on 5 October – now less than two weeks away.
Dortmund have rigidly stuck to their €120m (£110m) valuation of the 20-year-old and United have not been prepared to pay that in excess of £100m in the current climate.
Defeat to Crystal Palace in the opening game of the Premier League season over the weekend highlighted worrying gaps in the current squad. There is now a general consensus among fans and media that United may struggle to achieve their goals this season without further signings.
A new top centre-back is necessary to improve a weak defensive unit marshalled by club captain Harry Maguire. But more crucial is a right winger to provide attacking vibrancy and spark, which was so absent against Palace. Even if the centre of defence has to be left for now because there isn’t the time or funds available, that could be temporarily masked with fresh attacking impetus.
With Sancho talks at an impasse, there has been talk of the usual suspects being looked at as potential alternatives so far: Ivan Perisic, Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele. Gareth Bale was briefly on that list before he edged towards a Tottenham return, while even Chelsea teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi has also been linked in recent weeks.
As things stand, United are not thought to have gone any further than compile a list of names, still hoping that Sancho will be the one lining up on the right flank at Old Trafford this season. But as the deadlines nears and times grows short, enquiries, at least, may have to be made sooner or later.
Given that their pursuit of Sancho has been so heavily public for a number of months, the problem United have is that an approach for any other winger leaves them in a weak negotiating position.
An enquiry about Dembele, for example, would tell Barcelona that United are failing/have failed in their pursuit of Sancho and have become desperate by turning their attention elsewhere. The Catalans, or indeed the likes of Juventus, Inter or Bayern Munich, could try their luck by setting their price high, knowing that the Old Trafford club (who have money to spend) need to sign someone as a matter of urgency.
Should they wish, they are in a position to demand a hefty loan fee, for example, or perhaps make it clear that a loan will only happen if United additionally agree to an obligation to buy next summer. Neither of those scenarios suits a club that will still have its eyes fixed firmly on Sancho long-term.
But what other choice might those in Manchester have at this late stage? There is no bargain short-term fix for this situation and anything now becomes a risky gamble.
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