Alexis Sanchez: The big money gamble that's failed to pay off
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SANCHEZ'S STRUGGLES CONTINUE
We're now 13 months into Alexis Sanchez's Manchester United career and the Chilean is still yet to look at home in his new surroundings. The 30 year-olds transfer to the north west last January was seen as a massive statement of intent by the Red Devils, capturing one of the Premier League's brightest attacking talents along with weakening a rival in Arsenal. He was seen by many as the missing link between United finally ending their title drought, with their success in the 2012/13 campaign still the last time that they lifted the Premier League.
When a player at a top club fails to deliver they will always be under the spotlight but when it's Manchester United it's a completely different kettle of fish. The Red Devils may not be the dominant force they were back in the Ferguson days but they are still one of (if not the) biggest clubs in the world so the pressure is immense - which won't be helping Sanchez. There's a number of factors that come into play when looking at his situation and despite him being just a year into a ridiculously lucrative four-and-a-half year deal it really begs the question - should United cut their losses?
TOP EARNER FAILING TO DELIVER TOP PERFORMANCES
When Manchester United signed Alexis Sanchez just over a year ago it was seen as a huge moment in the clubs recent history. To obtain a player of that quality was a massive statement of intent and it got their supporters excited that good times were just around the corner - but so far it's been something of a disaster. Before joining the Red Devils the Chilean was regarded as one of the top flights finest attacking talents, netting 60 Premier League goals in just 122 appearances which included 24 in the 2016/17 campaign - so surely he'd fit right in alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial? Wrong.
During his time with Arsenal he was given license to roam and express himself under Arsene Wenger, who prided himself on attacking football. In moving to Manchester and working under Jose Mourinho he was forced to undertake a slightly different role, with the 56 year-old much more pragmatic. There was always going to be teething issues in understanding a new system and manager but no one would've forseen what has happened so far - with Sanchez notching just 5 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions since moving to Old Trafford.
The statistics make damning reading for a player who was once one of the Premier League's most feared forwards and what else is worrying for both Man Utd and their supporters is his contract. Competition for Sanchez's signature was fierce with rivals Manchester City looking in pole position to sign him all the way through the January 2018 window - only for Utd to swoop in and poach him at the last minute. But in doing so they offered him an absolutely ridiculous contract - one which he simply couldn't refuse - to become the clubs record earner.
There's been plenty of figures banded about around Sanchez's United deal but it's rumoured to be around the £500k a week mark, making him not just Manchester United's top earner, not just the Premier League's top earner, but one of the highest in world football. It was a massive gamble by the United board to smash their wage structure like that and in all honesty it's been a calamity. Not just did they give him that massive weekly wage but they also gave him four-and-a-half year deal at the age of 29 - meaning if he sees it out he will be on the Utd books till the age of 33 will earn upwards of £100m - simply unbelievable numbers.
NEW HOPE UNDER A NEW MANAGER?
Many initially believed that Sanchez's struggles at Manchester United were down to Jose Mourinho's defensive minded system. Since the 56 year-old has left Old Trafford we've seen a new, vibrant, exciting Utd side led by club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer which has seemingly been scoring goals at will - something that you'd think would be music to the ears of Sanchez. He has battled with his fair share of injury problems over the course of the campaign but since returning to full fitness he's been noway near the starting XI - with Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard all preferred over him in the wide areas.
Lingard has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the change in management, delivering some very impressive performances. But if someone told you that 13 months into Sanchez's United career he wouldn't be able to get a game ahead of the England man you'd call them crazy - but it's now the harsh reality for the Chilean. Lingard's energy, intensity and ability to drive Manchester United forward provides everything that the Red Devils thought they were getting in Sanchez and he clearly has a long way to go if he's to break back into the first team picture.
Tuesday nights clash with PSG in the Champions League was perhaps the biggest indication of just how much he's declined over the last 13 months. He replaced Lingard just before the interval and just failed to get in the game at all. Evenings like that were exactly why he was brought to the club, to help United become a force both domestically and continentally but he was instead shown up by the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria - who made a superb first return to Old Trafford since departing back in 2015, registering 2 assists in a tormenting performance.
Sanchez ended the game with no successful dribbles, no shots and no key passes - yes, he wasn't helped by his teammates but again it shows just how the Chilean's game has dropped over the last year. Once one of European footballs elite performers, it's sad to see his decline especially with him just at the age of 30. He should be at the peak of his powers just like Sergio Aguero at Manchester City who's as prolific as ever, but instead he's struggling to even make the bench at times for Manchester United on £500k a week.
WHAT NEXT FOR MAN UTD & SANCHEZ?
Sanchez's Manchester United career doesn't really show too many signs of turning around anytime soon and with him still under contract for another three-and-a-half years, he won't want to move on anytime soon as it will almost certainly mean he takes a pay-cut. There won't be many clubs in world football who'll be willing to match the outrageous deal he's currently on at Old Trafford, so this has got to go down as an awful gamble by the United board. Signing Sanchez looked like a real coup at the time and to snatch him from under the noses of City sent out a big statement, but it's been a disaster.
Whether it's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or a new man at the helm for the Red Devils at the start of next season, we're expecting some serious discussions to take place around Sanchez's future and we can't see him staying at Old Trafford too much longer IF they can find a taker. A move to another European club looks highly unlikely due to his astronomical wages so it all points to a move to Asia and Chinese Super League, which is definitely a more financially viable option.
We've already seen Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele make the move to the CSL over the last month so it's definitely a realistic option for Sanchez - but in-turn it would probably end his career in European football. The Sanchez signing was one hell of a gamble by the United board and ultimately it hasn't worked out, so it's going to be interesting to see how it pans out...
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