Jamie Carragher has named Liverpool and Manchester City as his favourites to win the 2020/21 Premier League title – but says the addition of Jadon Sancho could be enough to transform Manchester United into genuine challengers next season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer identified Sancho as his number one attacking target at the start of the summer but Borussia Dortmund appeared to rule out a move for the 20-year-old winger last month after United failed to meet his €120 million (£107.8m) asking price.
The Red Devils have since signed Donny van de Beek from Ajax for a fee of £40m and many are fancying the club’s chances as a potential underdog heading into the campaign, based on their excellent run of form at the end of last term.
The mood at Old Trafford lifted dramatically following Bruno Fernandes’ arrival in the January transfer window and Carragher insists they are not a million miles away from being able to compete with the likes of Liverpool and City.
‘I do not think Manchester United are as far away as people think,’ the former Liverpool and England defender told The Telegraph.
‘Roy Keane shot me down last year when I said that, but I have always thought that one or two little things can turn it and, for me, signing Bruno Fernandes in January has completely changed United.
‘That is just one signing. He came in and suddenly United were a completely different team.
‘That is how close it is. It could be that Jadon Sancho comes in and suddenly Man United are challenging for the title.’
Asked whether signing Sancho could be crucial to United’s hopes next season, Carragher replied: ‘I think United will eventually pay what they need to pay. Ed Woodward is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
‘When United have paid big fees for players in the past we have all laughed and said, “They’ve been done again”.
‘People call Woodward a joke because selling clubs can get an extra £10 million or £20m from him.
‘But now Borussia Dortmund have asked £108m for Sancho and because United have not paid it straight away everyone is criticising again.’
Carragher says he would be shocked if Liverpool fail to make a move for Sancho in 12 months’ time if United miss out on him this summer.
‘United have almost got a clear run at Sancho now, but that will change if he is still at Dortmund next year. I would be very surprised if Liverpool did not try to sign him next summer,’ he added.
‘Unless United get a couple more in then I cannot see how they will challenge City and Liverpool at the top.
‘United also need a centre-back. But the fact that Chelsea have signed Thiago Silva tells you there are not many great central defenders out there.’
Jurgen Klopp’s champions finished 33 points better off than United in the English top flight last term and Carragher feels the gap is still too big for Solskjaer’s men to mount a serious challenge.
‘I still see it as Liverpool and Man City,’ he responded when pressed on which team he’s backing to lift the trophy next year.
‘There is too big a gap to bridge for Chelsea and Manchester United to gain the 25/30 points they still need.’