Manchester United: Alexis Sanchez deserves spell on the sidelines
After a poor start to his Manchester United career, Alexis Sanches should be dropped to the bench, for his own good.
There’s something hollow about Manchester United. It’s a cavity that developed in the aftermath of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, widening into a glaring void where identity, style and substance have blurred.
After the staid regimes of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho was supposed to fill that gap. The football might be bad and the headlines unrelenting, but at least the red half of Manchester would stand for something again.
New era, same frustration
More than anything else, Manchester United’s signings under the Portuguese were meant to herald the new era. Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku are an expensive attempt to reclaim the club’s ‘heritage’. The signing of Alexis Sanchez, however, seems increasingly problematic.
Much has been made of the Chilean’s propensity for losing possession, he has already lost the ball more times in 90 minutes than any of his teammates this season, but that statistic isn’t new.
Sanchez has always been a creator and a gambler. The problem Mourinho faces now, however, is that those gambles haven’t paid off nearly as much as he will have expected.
Predictably, the winger was dropped for the FA Cup clash against Brighton at the weekend. Without him and Paul Pogba, United looked more coherent and controlled.
After just one goal and no assists since Sanchez’s January arrival, the decision to oust him from the starting lineup was eminently justifiable.
The stale one
Mourinho’s tactical approach hasn’t helped his new signing. In a brilliant piece, The Irish Times’ Ken Early details United’s tendency to bypass their central midfielders in favour of long balls and shunts out to the wing.
Mourinho’s lack of trust in his players’ ball-retention skills means that opponents have been able to shut Sanchez down at the earliest opportunity, whenever the long-telegraphed passes arrive from the United defence.
For all his problems, however, the Chilean won’t be out of the team for long.
Alexis alternatives audition
Marcus Rashford has been exceptional in recent weeks, providing the kind of thrust and dynamism that has been so lacking in Sanchez’s displays. He remains the only definite challenger for the Chilean’s starting spot.
Juan Mata failed to impress in a more advanced role at the weekend, whilst Jesse Lingard is still unsure of a starting place despite showing Mourinho what he can do in a fine season.
Anthony Martial’s agent, meanwhile, has refused to confirm whether his client will stay at the club this summer.
Save our Sanchez
There are certain mitigating factors for Sanchez’s recent form, too. The Chilean had played four international tournaments in four summers before his move to United in January.
The high workload doesn’t appear to have affected his work rate, he reached his highest distance covered this season whilst in a United shirt, but his goal scoring and chance creation has fallen dramatically.
A spell out of the team, therefore, could do Sanchez more good than harm. Chile’s failure to qualify for the forthcoming World Cup will provide him, finally, with an extended mental and physical break.
A sojourn on the sidelines will also allow him a chance to refocus and re-energise, on several occasions, the perception has been that Sanchez is simply trying too hard.
United fans, then, shouldn’t write off their January signing just yet. Sanchez is 29, with a proven record across a glittering career. Their club might be struggling, but the Chilean will have a big say in turning things round.
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