Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final, but the display of Jadon Sancho arguably overshadowed the entire spectacle.

As the Yellow Wall waved its flags, Paris Saint-Germain’s left-back was flagging on the pitch. Nuno Mendes lay prone with about 20 minutes of the second half still to go, seemingly seeking medical attention. No medical staff arrived and the Portugal international gradually got back to his feet.

In reality, the young Mendes was most probably trying to catch his breath, taking in every possible moment for a rest before his torment resumed.

And resume it did within a couple of minutes as his tormentor breezed by him twice in a matter of seconds, the footwork and speed leaving Mendes with little answer. Thankfully, for him, the shot that followed was kept out by Gianluigi Donnarumma and Paris Saint-Germain managed to only lose 1-0, their hopes of overturning the deficit in the second leg very much alive.

Yet, the actual match and scoreline almost felt like a sideshow. This was the Jadon Sancho show, a work that many haven’t seen in years.

Sancho’s Manchester United career is technically still ongoing, but the opening chapters of that story were incredibly underwhelming such was the talent he showed in his first spell at Signal Iduna Park.

He left Dortmund in 2021 having recorded at least 29 goal involvements across all competitions in three successive seasons; he’s recorded just 22 since.

Jadon Sancho goal involvements

Sancho may not play for United again, and if that proves to be the case, it’ll be fair to say the Premier League never saw anything close to the best of him.

On Wednesday, Mendes and PSG probably did.

Sancho looked confident, comfortable pretty much right from the off. He went in search of the ball and was positive when it came to him, passing with assurance through the lines and carrying with great purpose.

Jadon Sancho carries

Man Utd fans look back on a player who clearly had ability but one who so often played within himself, perhaps dogged by a diminished self-belief. Reports of disciplinary issues were quick to emerge after his departure, but those did little to explain why he regularly appeared so sheepish on the pitch, displaying a frustrating tendency to slow the play down.

But there was none of that on show against PSG. Deployed from the right, Sancho was direct and looked so sharp. In the early stages, he tracked back well and none of that confidence appeared to evaporate while under pressure in his own half.

It was in the attacking half where he shone, though. He reached half-time having attempted 11 dribbles and completing seven of them. The most he’d completed in a full match (in any competition) at United was five, and yet here he was dazzling at will against PSG in a Champions League semi-final no less, tying Mendes in knots.

Jadon Sancho dribbles vs PSG first half

Dortmund could clearly sense he had the beating of his marker, and so Sancho enjoyed a lot of the ball. His 99 touches was the second most of all players on the pitch, and 26 more than any of his teammates.

But it wasn’t just a case of recycling possession and chucking a few dribbles that ultimately went nowhere. Sancho brought real value to Dortmund’s play, linking up well with Julian Ryerson and providing an effortless poise on the ball that no one else on the pitch could match. And this was a pitch on which Kylian Mbappé was also present.

Sancho laid on three chances to teammates, a tally bettered by no one else, and one of those certainly should have led to an assist.

Dortmund vs PSG sequence involvements

A drop of the shoulder allowed him to surge away from Mendes, and Sancho’s inch-perfect cut-back into the middle found Niclas Füllkrug, but he got under his effort and accidentally shinned it over the crossbar from about eight yards out. It was a huge miss.

Later he released Julian Brandt with another well-weighted pass through the legs of a defender into the box, with PSG saved by a crucial last-ditch block. And then Sancho saw a teasing cross nodded over by Marco Reus a few seconds later.

Clearly, though, the key aspect of Sancho’s performance and what made it so special was his belief – call it respectful arrogance, even – on the ball, the kind we came to expect from him but that which has been largely absent since he left Dortmund for Old Trafford nearly three years ago.

He ended Wednesday’s game having completed 12 dribbles in the match, the most by a player in a Champions League semi-final since Lionel Messi (16) against Man Utd in April 2008 and the most on record (since 2003-04) by an English player.

Jadon Sancho dribbles

Expect Sancho’s display to attract vast column inches over the next week ahead of the return leg in Paris, because it’s also fair to say he comfortably upstaged Mbappé.

In the interest of balance, Sancho hasn’t been amazing since returning to Dortmund, so whether this was him showing he’s truly back or simply a mercurial talent on an increasingly rare good day remains to be seen.

But make no mistake, football is far more fun when Jadon Sancho leaves full-backs seeing stars.

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