One would be hard-pressed to find a case more intriguing than that of Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United.
The Chilean was undoubtedly one of the best players in the Premier League during his time at Arsenal. And then he moved to United in a swap deal, involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in January 2018. Sanchez’s acquisition was heralded as a United masterstroke, and almost everyone backed him to hit the ground running. However, no one could have predicted whatever happened for the next 18 months. Since his move to United, Sanchez has suffered a huge dip in form and his performances have consistently been the subject of criticism. Not only he has failed to produce goods on the pitch, but also, he has become detrimental to the club due to his £500,000-a-week wages.
The Chilean arguably enjoyed the best season of his life in 2016-17, when he scored 24 goals for the Gunners in the Premier League. His levels dropped a bit next season amidst constant transfer speculation, but he still managed seven goals in the first half of the season. However, since his move to United in January, Sanchez has scored only three goals in the Premier League. The 2018-19 season turned out to be the lowest point in his professional career as he managed only two goals in 20 Premier League games.
Hence, Sanchez’s current situation presents a huge dilemma to both the player and the club. His wages mean that United would need to get rid of him sooner or later. And whoever has seen Sanchez play must know that he is not the kind of player who would be happy collecting just paychecks.
He has been linked with an exit from the club this summer, but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t yet given up on the 30-year-old. The Norwegian manager has made it very clear that Sanchez is not leaving any time soon, and that he could play a vital role for United this season. Solskjaer was also appreciative of Sanchez’s efforts in the training ground.
Alexis is such a professional and he comes in working every single day, really hard,” said Solskjaer.
“He wants to be a part of this and of course, these stories he’s been put in the reserves – of course, he hasn’t.
“He’s part of our squad and he’s a really good player. He’s had three weeks now, so he’s a few weeks behind the rest, but close to being part of it
“We don’t have the biggest forward line in numbers, so Alexis might end up playing a lot more games than you expect, because we expect him to come good at this club – he’s quality.
“We’ve had a behind closed doors game and he’s training. He’s doing a little bit extra and he’ll be gradually integrated into more and more playing time.
“But we’ll have more behind closed doors games because with one game a week now it’s hard to keep everyone ticking. We’re arranging a few of them.”
Exploring the reasons behind the sudden loss of form
A lot of reasons have been given to explain Sanchez’s loss of form at United. Some believe that Sanchez is not happy at United and doesn’t feel motivated, while some have speculated that his playing style doesn’t suit United’s. There have also been suggestions that non-stop competitive football has taken its toll on Sanchez’s body, and he is simply past it.
Now, it is Solskjaer’s job to figure out the real reason and get the best out of Sanchez. It seems easier said than done. However, if the United manager can help Sanchez rediscover his lost form, it would be a massive boost for United. An in-form Sanchez could prove to be the difference between a successful season and an unsuccessful one for United. Thus, it makes sense that Solskjaer hasn’t given up on his forward yet.