Manchester United look forward to a future unburdened by Alexis Sanchez
Chilean forward will soon end his disastrous spell at Old Trafford when he completes a permanent switch to Inter Milan
The images seem from another era, a time when it looked as though Manchester United had executed an audacious coup and got one over on their neighbours; perhaps even shifted the balance of power in the Premier League back their way.
It was January 2018 and their latest arrival Alexis Sanchez sat at the piano, pretending to play ‘Glory, Glory Man United.’ It was, it transpired, a better impression than the Chilean subsequently performed of a United No 7 – apart from a declining Michael Owen or an unhappy Angel Di Maria – or even of the Arsenal Sanchez. Arguably the Premier League’s outstanding player became the worst signing in United’s history.
There were FA Cup goals against Arsenal and Tottenham, a dramatic late winner at Newcastle and two assists in a Manchester derby comeback victory, but it is safe to assume there will be no specially commissioned video to mark Sanchez’s proposed departure; just a sigh of relief, particularly from the club’s accountants.
He helped give United the biggest wage bill in England, not the best team. Offloading him to Inter Milan with two years remaining on his deal would count as the finest business of the summer, certainly in terms of the balance sheet.
United had around £55 million (Dh263m) left on that contract; in one respect, giving Sanchez away will bring in more than twice as much money as selling David Beckham did.
Without that drain on their budget, Jadon Sancho becomes more affordable; the Borussia Dortmund winger might be the first worthy inheritor of the famed No 7 shirt since Cristiano Ronaldo left in 2009.
The Englishman also looks the anti-Sanchez, representing what is right about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ethos whereas Sanchez highlighted the problems in being blinded by stardust and thinking that bolting on big names was a substitute for proper team-building.
Sanchez’s piano-playing exploits then formed United’s most popular ever Instagram post, but football matches are not won on social media.
Solskjaer sometimes appears on the verge of self-parody with his love of all things United, but he has restored an ethos that there is something special about the club. Some of their more ill-advised recruits did not give that impression. Sanchez seemed to view joining United as a consolation prize after a move to Manchester City broke down. He looked the sullen struggler.
He was a disaster with a domino effect. His signing disturbed the wage structure, causing David de Gea to demand more money and Ander Herrera to leave, and the forward line, restricting the opportunities for Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on the left until Solskjaer arrived.
United are better off without Jose Mourinho, but his reign took a turn for the worse when Sanchez arrived. Solskjaer only granted him six starts and was quick to make the pecking order more of a meritocracy. Even when United were short of scorers before Bruno Fernandes’ arrival this season, no one could credibly claim they were missing the loaned-out Sanchez.
He will go after winning no trophies and scoring three league goals, a measly tally that puts him level with different generations of bad buys, in Ralph Milne and Di Maria. It amounts to five per cent of his tally for Arsenal. Rarely has anyone gone from being so good to so bad so quickly.
Certainly United did not seem to appreciate that a player who brought up 700 career games before his 30th birthday might lose the dynamism that made him brilliant.
Maybe Antonio Conte’s 2016 Premier League all-stars project can transport him back to a happier time. But if not, United can soon take solace in the thought that Sanchez is now someone else’s problem.
Updated: August 5, 2020 12:05 PM