There was excitement when United won the race for Sancho in the summer of 2021. The winger had scored 50 goals and helped assist another 64 in four seasons at Borussia Dortmund alongside Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland, justifying his decision to leave Manchester City as a teenager and go abroad.
He was never a speed merchant but boasted skill, balance, technique and game intelligence.
The decision to join United was taken before he was in England’s squad for Euro 2020 (played in 2021 because of Covid) but things quickly went awry after that.
Sancho missed a penalty in the shoot-out that determined the final against Italy on July 11, less than a fortnight before his move to Old Trafford was officially announced.
Like Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka he received online abuse and, whether that was a contributory factor, he was allowed to delay his arrival in Manchester to start preparing for the new season.
Solskjaer was seen as a good man-manager at that time but in retrospect the decision could be viewed as a mistake. Sancho was behind from the moment he arrived and, in some respects, has never caught up.
He watched United’s final warm-up game as a spectator when Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, who had played a lot more minutes in Euro 2020 than he had done, had returned to training in time to play.
It meant Sancho began United’s first two Premier League games on the bench. Two days after his first start at Wolves, he had to face another bombshell – the dramatic signing of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was guaranteed to be centre-forward which meant in-form Mason Greenwood switching out wide and Sancho suddenly struggling for a starting berth.
He didn’t get his first goal until November 21. A different type of character might have reacted to the setback by puffing out his chest and demanding the ball but Sancho seemed to shrink rather than grow on the big stage.
United’s overall form didn’t help either. Solskjaer was sacked and there was the farce of one interim, Ralf Rangnick, replacing another, Michael Carrick.
By the time Erik ten Hag arrived to oversee a proper rebuild, Sancho’s confidence was shot and the Dutchman took him out of the firing line to get himself together ‘physically and mentally’.