Manchester United were on the cusp of signing Jadon Sancho at the end of July, with a move to Old Trafford “one step away” before United attempted to restructure the deal with Borussia Dortmund for the £108million-rated winger. That’s according to transfer expert Fabrizio Romano.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it clear to his superiors that Sancho was his No 1 target for the summer but despite five signings on deadline day, United did not sign a senior winger.
Teenage talents Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo were signed, but a deal could not be brokered for Sancho, while alternative additions such as Ousmane Dembele and Ismaila Sarr were refused.
Solskjaer sees 20-year-old Sancho as the ideal player to join Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in attack on the right-hand side.
But the 13-cap England international will remain in Germany at least until January with no bid meeting Dortmund’s £108m valuation having been submitted in the summer.
Romano, though, says United were on the verge of signing Sancho – who agreed personal terms with the Red Devils despite the clubs failing to reach an agreement – until the Premier League side tried to change how they would pay for the player.
“Jadon Sancho was really one step away from joining Manchester United at the end of July and the start of August. He was one step away,” Romano told his Here We Go podcast, looking back at the summer deals that did not go through.
“It’s also been confirmed by some agents who were in contact with United because of other players, they met with United’s board in these days at the end of July and the start of August and everyone said, ‘United have signed Sancho. It’s just a matter of details.’
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“What happened? They changed the structure of the payment of Sancho, saying like, ‘We’re going to pay €80m with add-ons.’
“United were really convinced that before deadline day, and at the end of September, that Borussia Dortmund would be ready to accept a different bid – not just €120m but €90m, more add-ons, payments in two or three years to try to sign Sancho.
“They said, ‘Okay it’s the coronavirus summer, we need money, every club needs money, let’s try at the end of the summer.’
“But the position of Dortmund was still the same, ‘We will sell the player for €120m.’
“They said they had the deadline but if United would arrive with €120m, also on deadline day, Dortmund were going to sell Sancho.
“It was just a matter of money, of paying immediately €120m.”
Romano added that Sancho is “disappointed” by United’s failure to sign him, with the wide-man having been excited by a prospective return to Manchester having spent two years in Manchester City’s academy set-up between 2015 and 2017.
The Athletic have alleged that United owner Joel Glazer and Woodward had a difference of opinion over Sancho as the executive vice-chairman lobbied for the club to improve their offer after a bid of £80m plus add-ons was rebuffed.
But Glazer and the United board were apparently unwilling to pay what they deemed an unrealistic fee in £108m, seemingly leaving the blame for the lack of a deal at the feet of the top table rather than Woodward.
It would suggest that the idea to try and restructure the deal for Sancho would have come from above Woodward as they sought to keep costs down.
United are expected to come back in for Sancho in the future but could face fresh competition for his signature from the likes of Liverpool, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
They had a free run at signing the fleet-footed attacker this year but may not find it so easy in 2021.
Liverpool, Barca and Real Madrid did not have the cash to rival United this year but will hope to have greater financial freedom in 12 months’ time.
But ESPN say that Sancho was one of four priority targets United failed to land this summer, with Aston Villa creator Jack Grealish and RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano and Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake also high up on his wishlist.
Ake joined City in a £41m move while £80m-rated Grealish has stayed at Villa and Upamecano remains at Leipzig, where he has a release clause of around £36.5m in his contract that becomes active next summer.
But Norwegian coach Solskjaer had been eager to bring the Frenchman or Ake to United immediately to pair him with captain Harry Maguire at the heart of his defence.
United have conceded 11 goals in just three Premier League games and have attracted criticism for their displays at the back.
They did however sign Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles, Edinson Cavani, Pellistri, Diallo and teenage defender Willy Kambwala, as well as extending Odion Ighalo’s loan until January 2021.
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