After a summer in which Manchester United spent £ 73million on Jadon Sancho to bring artistry to their attacking line, it said so much about the club’s misfortunes that one of the finest Old Trafford displays would come from an opposition player they could have signed for € 25 million instead.
A year on and United are in the market for a forward this summer with a preference for another, to offset the exodus of attack-minded players who are out of contract next month.
One player of interest to the club is Villarreal star Arnaut Danjuma who will be available for just € 45million when his release clause becomes active at the end of the season, a year on from being considered as a Sancho alternative.
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It is understood United seriously discussed the possibility of signing Danjuma a year ago but were cautious about moving for a player who was, at the time, playing in the Championship.
With 16 goals and four assists in his debut La Liga season, the Dutch winger has begun to prove those doubts wrong, and he represents somewhat of a bargain for any prospective buyer. But for United, there is one problem; he plays on the left wing.
Sources admit that a deal is unlikely given that United are overstocked in that area of the pitch, but those close to the player insist he has much more to his game than an inverted wing role.
Danjuma, 25, actually made 18 appearances as part of a two-pronged attack this season and could well be the versatile solution United need in their forward line, given he could also help alleviate the pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo next season. He also featured in a central striking role for the Netherlands earlier in the year.
Despite his versatility, there can be no denying the fact that Danjuma is best suited to a wing role in English football, with the majority of his Bournemouth appearances coming on the left side of their attack.
It was in this position that he terrorized Diogo Dalot last September, picking up the Man of the Match award at Old Trafford as a dominant Villarreal succumbed to Cristiano Ronaldo’s late winner deep into stoppage time.
If he were to arrive at United this summer, then the Villarreal star would likely be tasked with the left wing role and the occasional appearance through the middle, something which could only be sanctioned if they managed to get rid of a few fringe players at the end of the season.
Despite being signed to play on the right wing a year ago, the majority of Sancho’s appearances in his debut campaign came on the opposite flank. He was one of eight different left wing options explored during the season, with Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Anthony Elanga, Hannibal Mejbri and Alejandro Garnacho all playing there at one time or another.
There is room for some optimism from his side, though. Pogba will leave this summer, while Martial is also available for transfer. Fernandes is an attacking midfielder by trade, and Hannibal has also been earmarked for a more central role going forward.
If United can manage to get Sancho firing in the right wing position he was signed to do, then they only have Rashford, Elanga and Garnacho as left wing options, none of whom are exactly at the level required right now.
That means a bargain move for the € 45m-rated Danjuma could well be an option if Ten Hag manages to ruthlessly overhaul the side as he wishes in the months ahead.
Sancho might not only hold the answer to United’s right wing issues, but he could help them solve their left-sided ones too.