In the blink of an eye, Alexis Sanchez went from being one of Europe’s most revered footballers to a borderline joke figure. From the scourge of the Premier League with Arsenal, to a forgotten man at Manchester United.
These two periods were segued by a bizarre announcement video in which a smiling Sanchez was seen playing the piano on the Old Trafford turf.
Just United’s luck. For all the deserved criticism that has come their way in recent years with regards to transfer business, they haven’t always been the luckiest side. Or maybe they ought not to have signed a player approaching 30 on eye-watering wages in the first place and let rivals Manchester City make a rare transfer mistake instead. Fortune favours the smart in the window and there’s been more intelligence at the Etihad than Old Trafford of late.
But times are changing and United’s decision not to panic on deadline day when considering whether to replace Romelu Lukaku was indicative of their new transfer approach under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
There is little chance Sanchez would have been signed on wages estimated to be around £350,000-per-week (making him United’s highest earner) had Solskjaer been at the wheel 18 months ago. He’s exactly the type of signing they eschewed in the summer just gone, with neither of Paulo Dybala or Mario Mandzukic signed despite talks with both Juventus men.
So Sanchez is still here and the lack of a panic-buy striker signing on deadline day has consequences for him and the club.
It means United are now in the position where they cannot afford to let Sanchez leave the club, despite the suggestion that the Chilean wants to leave, amid interest from Roma in a loan deal.
MEN Sport understands that United would have considered selling Sanchez this summer, depending on the offer. They hoped a Chinese Super League club would come in for him. A parting of the ways seemed best for everyone involved.
But that shouldn’t be the case now – and not just because that ship has sailed.
First of all, any loan negotiation from United’s point of view, would need a club to cover his substantial wage demands. There is little point in losing a useful squad player and still covering his wages while he’s at another club. A sale is unlikely in the current market.
Sanchez may have scored just three league goals in a disastrous spell at United, but there is a player there (somewhere).
What happens if Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial pick up an injury? What happens if both of them do?
Mason Greenwood has enormous talent but the 17-year-old is not ready to carry the burden of the entire United attack. Daniel James is 21 but he too is just bedding into life at the club.
Solskjaer must do everything in his power to re-purpose Sanchez and make him selectable again.
The 30-year-old didn’t feature for United over pre-season after coming back from Chile’s Copa America duty with a hamstring injury. He needs to get back into the first team squad, get fit and be ready for United to call upon his talents.
And unless United receive a generous fee from a club prepared to cover the player’s entire wages, there is little use in shipping Sanchez away at this stage.
It may go against Solskjaer’s ethos and satisfy the ego of a player who has hardly served United well in the past 18 months, but it is a necessary decision.