This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Sometimes a dream really can turn into a nightmare. Alexis Sanchez’s move to Old Trafford was seen as a signing that could help shift the balance of power back to the red half of Manchester, such was the winger’s form at Arsenal.
Instead, the Chilean has become a symbol of everything that has gone wrong at Manchester United – overpaid off the pitch and woeful on it.
Even if the club were keen to push him out the door, trying to find a suitor to match the astronomical sum of money he earns will be one tough task. So perhaps instead of trying to ship him out, United could make him the focal point. Sanchez really has entered the last chance saloon, but all it could take to revitalise him is a simple change of position.
Valued at £31.5m by Transfermarkt, Sanchez’s entire Old Trafford career has virtually been spent out on the left-hand side, where he’s been allowed to cut in on to his right foot. At Arsenal he thrived in a similar position, but the circumstances were slightly different.
At the Emirates, the Chilean often played in a 4-2-3-1 and had the mercurial Mesut Ozil as the side’s number ten. The German playmaker is a divisive figure, but his ability to pick a teammate out or find pockets of space to create chances for others was second to none. Whenever Ozil had the ball, Sanchez could dart infield and collect the ball on the half-turn before going on those trademark driving runs.
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At Old Trafford however, the 30-year-old has been stifled. Too many chefs and not enough waiters. The likes of Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are all occupying the space Sanchez craves and ultimately, whenever the Chile international does get the ball, he is inevitably subdued.
One man United would do well to heed from is Sanchez’s former manager, Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman converted the winger into a central striker in the 2016/2017 season and was richly rewarded. By December 9, Sanchez had scored 11 Premier League goals.
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Speaking about his star man’s performances, Wenger said: “He knows when to come off and when to go in behind. He has more freedom and he takes advantage of his technique much more. You see that the guy who plays wide and can score goals can score even more goals in the centre. I always saw that in Sánchez.”
So rather than desperately trying to cut their losses on the 30-year-old, making him the side’s number nine could well be the kick-start to seeing the ‘old Sanchez’ turn up once more.