There’s no hiding from the fact that Alexis Sanchez has had a wretched eighteen months at Old Trafford. Poor form and injuries have amplified the folly of handing him a £500,000 a week salary.
With no buyers on the horizon, it appears almost certain that the Chilean will be staying put this summer, but what sort of role will he have at United?
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to build a young, vibrant team full of pace and verve. At 30 years of age, and with a dodgy hamstring, Sanchez doesn’t really fit the mould that the United boss is looking for.
Still, it does appear that the Norwegian will feature in his plans to some degree. When asked about his attacking threats, Solskjaer did namecheck the former Arsenal star:
“We had four players in double figures [last season]. Of course, that’s great, we don’t rely on one to score 30 or 40 goals. But of course we’ve got Anthony [Martial], Rom [Lukaku], Marcus [Rashford], you’ve got Alexis chipping in more, Mason [Greenwood]’s due a breakthrough, I think Dan James is going to chip in with goals.”
Sanchez did show a few glimpses of his old self whilst away with Chile at the Copa America. He scored two goals in the group stages and scored the deciding spot-kick in the quarter-final penalty shootout against Colombia.
Even so, the forward was once again struck down with an injury in the third-place playoff against Argentina. While the club doesn’t expect him to miss any action due to the hamstring problem on his return to preseason, the fragility of his body is still very much evident.
As well as his hamstring keeping him out for a month last campaign, Sanchez also suffered knee, thigh and ankle injuries, and with the player reaching the closing stages of his career, those knocks do take their toll.
Combined with the fact that Solskajer is seeking to implement a fast, counter-attacking style, the Chilean is the least capable out of United’s forward options to adapt his game.
Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James all have pace and youth on their side. It’s hard to see how Sanchez can really match them on the pitch for work rate and energy.
In the Copa America, there were some good signs. The Chilean made more progressive runs than he did for United last season, according to Wyscout. An average of 2.56 per game, compared with just 1.33 for United.
Sanchez also doubled the number of dribbles he made per match (6.51 for Chile compared to 3.59 for United. In terms of his overall contribution, though, he averaged the same number of attacking actions over 90 minutes.
There were certainly signs of better things to come from Sanchez, but he will need to significantly improve if he wants to be a first-team regular under Solskjaer this campaign.