It took Cristiano Ronaldo nine games before getting on the score-sheet for the first-time for Manchester United. It took him another thirteen to register his second.
Such stats would not survive the modern generation of football fans. The cries of ‘flop’ would have been spurted around before the player had even unpacked his final suitcase in his new country.
Fast forward six years and this figure once dubbed a young talent, would be sold on for a then world record fee of £80,000,000. The once most expensive footballer of all-time, to the greatest goal-scorer the game has ever seen. Moral of the story: players take time to adapt.
Unfortunately, this sentiment has been lost amongst the toxic social media platforms. Platforms that are utilised to vent spur of the moment frustrations, without acknowledging the wider picture at play. Such a mentality is fuelled by interactions and mentions, metrics that follow a trajectory path, the more outlandish the take.
It’s an unhealthy attitude to apply to judging footballers, but one that persists. The latest figure to be subject to such narrow-minded thinking has been Jadon Sancho, after 220 minutes of playing time. We are sure readers don’t need to be reminded, but a game of football lasts ninety. The sample size that we have to judge the 21-year-old on in red, does not even equate to three full games.Embed from Getty Images
Frustratingly for Sancho, he was hooked after 35 minutes last night, making way for Diogo Dalot as United needed to react to Aaron Wan-Bissaka‘s foolish red card. Realistically then, we have two starting samples to try and pick apart moments, to try and predict how the Englishman will settle into Ole Gunnar Solskjær‘s XI. Of those two games, he has played ahead of two different pivots, a different adjacent winger, and a different number nine. Are you starting to see how important context can be?
The reshuffling at Wolves did not benefit United’s attacking system. Paul Pogba was shifted central after a man-of-the-match display down the left against Southampton, next to a newly introduced Fred, who replaced the strong season starter in Nemanja Matic. Daniel James, now sold to Leeds United, was brought in down the right, with Mason Greenwood once again being rotated down the middle.
This was Sancho’s first ever start for the club. He is not entering a fully solidified XI that picks his names itself, this is a United team that is often chopped and changed around.
If you ask ten United fans to name their strongest line-up, you are likely to receive five to six, even seven different answers. Of those differing XIs, the main changes will come down the flanks. The Red Devils invested in Sancho to rectify their unbalancing wings, that have caused interchanging issues down the years, and it will simply take time for him to mould into this position.
This is not an overnight job. This is a 21-year-old that has been identified as a long-term asset, set to serve in the squad for the next decade.Embed from Getty Images
Of course, Solskjær and co will still expect to see a healthy return from Sancho this season. This is a forward that had a direct hand in 104 goals in 137 games for Borussia Dortmund, and he is being lined up for at least 35+ starts this campaign.
We saw glimpses of his productivity level against Newcastle United, completing the most dribbles on the field, despite featuring for only 66 out of the full 90 minutes. He hugged the left touchline well, drifting inside when necessary to play one-twos off Ronaldo.
Over half of his passes on the day came inside the final third, with no player completing more touches inside the area. His attacking movement helped open up the pockets for Bruno Fernandes, with the Red Devils looking sharp in their transitions. Early promising signs, from a player that first walked through the Carrington doors just five weeks ago.
Perhaps the video game FIFA has shaped the younger generation’s thinking when it comes to signings entering a new set-up. You cannot hand pick names and place them on the field and expect world-class wonders from the word go, particularly when it comes to players that have only been legally driving for four years.
There are expectations for Sancho at Old Trafford, not a single United follower would dispute this, but to be calling for his head five games into the new season is simply absurd. Write Jadon off at your own peril.