Alexis Sanchez arrived at Manchester United with a lot of promise. Sanchez was absolutely sensational at Arsenal, notching up an impressive 80 goals and 45 assists in 166 games for the Gunners. At that time, I remembered how I really wanted Lucas Moura to come to the club instead. Moura was younger and faster than the Chilean, who was already 29 by the time he signed with the Red Devils. However, since United were swapping the frustratingly inconsistent Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Sanchez with no additional fees, it seemed like an absolute bargain for the club. The Red Devils hyped up his arrival, revealing a heart-warming announcement video that Alexis had signed for the club.
I still remember how excited my friends and I were when they released this video. Finally, we had someone worthy to wear the famous no. 7 shirt. Sanchez had demonstrated his prowess at Arsenal, and United fans waited eagerly for him to replicate his form at Arsenal at Old Trafford.
So we waited.
And well, we’re still waiting.
Some say his finest performance in a United jersey was playing that piano in his announcement video. The truth is Sanchez is a shadow the player he was at Arsenal. He has shown glimpses of his talent, but mostly, he has been poor. Even at Inter Milan, Sanchez (to be fair he has been plagued by injuries) has not produced when it mattered. Now, many United fans probably would have forgotten about him after Bruno Fernandes’s arrival. Honestly, I forgot that he was going to return at the end of the season. It does beg the question though, what do Manchester United do with him?
I stumbled on an article written by Kevin Bernie for the Manchester Evening News, “Four reasons Alexis Sanchez should be given another chance at Manchester United.” I’m going to be frank. I disagree with the weak arguments he has come up with. Read his article and you’ll understand what I am saying. Still, his article has made me think about what the club should do with Sanchez.
Should he stay?
If Alexis Sanchez were to take a significant pay cut, I think he can be an instrumental member of the squad. Sanchez can play on both wings and operate as a striker as well. Manchester United have deployed Dan James as a makeshift striker because of injuries to Rashford and Martial. With Ighalo potentially not signing permanently for the club and Woodward recently ruling out big-money signatures, Sanchez adds some valuable depth to the team.
Bernie mentions that with time, Sanchez can rediscover his Arsenal form. The likelihood of that happening is slim. Those days are well past him, but Sanchez does have significant experience under his belt. He doesn’t have to be the same player he was at Arsenal. Instead, he can become a mentor-like figure for developing players (just like Juan Mata and Nemanja Matić). Harry Maguire has added much-needed leadership in the youthful United locker room, but more experienced heads are needed..
Most importantly, Sanchez should be given a fair chance with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker’s arrival has reinvigorated the entire team. Sanchez was a great player at Arsenal not entirely because he was a gifted footballer but also because he brilliantly linked up play with Mesut Özil. Özil’s incredible vision and passing ability meant that he always found a way to supply the ball to Sanchez. Quite frankly, when he first arrived, no one at United was a formidable playmaker. Now, we have one with Bruno. Will Sanchez regain some of his form with Bruno’s playmaking ability? In fact, if Bruno and Pogba were fielded together with Sanchez, that could make for some exciting football at United.
Should he go?
If Sanchez remains, the board would almost certainly have him start every game since he is earning a staggering weekly wage. His wages could have significant impacts on the rest of the team. Under Ole, Manchester United have undertaken a different approach when it comes to transfers. The Norwegian has rebuilt Manchester United by buying young players and blooding in academy prospects. Would Sanchez’s arrival threaten the playing time of hot prospects and thus hinder their development? United have done well to give Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood ample game time on the wings this campaign. Selling Sanchez will make more sense if Ole is sticking to his philosophy on youth.
Sanchez hasn’t merited a place in the squad through his loan at Inter Milan and at this point, he is nothing more than an unnecessary gamble. Let’s compare his performances to another United loanee, Chris Smalling. On loan at Roma, Smalling has rediscovered the excellent form he displayed under Louis van Gaal. United could potentially bring him back to help add competition in defence. Sanchez has done nothing of the sort at Inter Milan. Based on his performances thus far, I don’t see any reason why he should be given a spot over other members of the squad.
Moreover, as I mentioned earlier in the article, Sanchez has an unjustified amount of weekly wages. Selling him frees up wage space and prevents potential rifts in the locker room. Give it time and other players at United would start demanding for similar astronomical wages. Sanchez needs to take a pay cut or else, he should be given the boot.
Time will only tell what the club does with Sanchez. Ole seems to be keen on giving the winger another chance at redemption. No one wants a player to be dreadful. Regardless of whether he stays or goes, the footballing world needs Sanchez to regain his form. He is an exceptional talent who has a few more years in him at least (he is only 32 years old this year). I refuse to believe he is past his peak. He needs time. The question is, are United willing to give him some?