Player Zone: Why Alexis Sanchez has failed to impress at Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez’s abrupt decline has been of great detriment to Manchester United. Having fought relentlessly against Manchester City for his signature, there was a feeling of immense satisfaction on the red half of Manchester once he had signed.

At Arsenal, Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer had been one of the league’s most mesmerising talents, capable of the exceptional and sufficiently proficient at changing the course of a game in an instant.

Nonetheless, Alexis is a mere shadow of his former self. The player that glistened and dazzled so spectacularly at Barcelona and Arsenal is no more. The current edition is prone to making simple mistakes, incapable of dictating games, and generally ineffectual in the iconic red shirt of United. Seemingly, confidence has seeped out of his body, leaving the 30-year-old limited in his ability to influence games.

It’s believed that the forward earns £350,000 a week, and in return for that hefty investment United have been rewarded with a measly return of five goals in 40 games, only three of which have been scored in the Premier League.

This unexpected and pronounced fall from grace has left him on the periphery of the first-team picture at Manchester United, a utility option as opposed to one of the first names on the team sheet. How can a player as immensely talented as Sanchez see his quality and impact recede so quickly?

Since Jose Mourinho was sacked from his duties as the United manager, and under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Paul Pogba has been liberated, and they’ve certainly reaped the resultant benefits. The 25-year-old has amassed 25 goal contributions – 14 goals, 11 assists – during 34 games for the Red Devils, a genuinely phenomenal return and one that attests the midfielder’s status as a world-class talent.

If United require inspiration, they turn towards Pogba. On the rare occasions that the Frenchman is nullified, as was exemplified by the 2-0 defeat to PSG, United suffer.

This degree of importance, and in a sense, dependence is what Alexis enjoyed at Arsenal. During his spell with the north London club, the forward amassed 80 goals in 166 appearances, almost a goal every two appearances. Quality and continuity are two words that characterise Sanchez’s spell with Arsenal.

In 51 appearances during all competitions in the 2016/17 campaign, he amassed a staggering total of 48 goal contributions – 30 goals, 18 assists. His reputation as one of the league’s most decorated talents was undeniable, and for all the creativity and the refined vision that Mesut Ozil provided, Sanchez was unequivocally Arsenal’s most important player.

One of the Chilean’s great strengths is his tactical adaptability, he’s capable of playing on either flank or operating as a striker, and generally, he thrived wherever he played at Arsenal. Given the extent of his significance, and Arsenal’s creative reliance on his output, he was granted considerable freedom; the licence to attack and express himself.

Primarily, he was Arsenal’s best player, and the supporting act failed to emulate his dazzling heights.

Since joining United, he has faced increased competition, and due to his underwhelming performances, he’s often been overlooked. In the presence of Martial, Lingard, Mata, Rashford and Lukaku, Sanchez has struggled to attain a starting position. Ultimately, his failure to make an immediate impression at Old Trafford, one of the contributing factors behind his signing, has left the Chilean fairly alienated at the club.

He has failed to demonstrate his ability to replicate the success that he achieved at Arsenal, and as a result, hasn’t been granted the same freedom to express himself.

Importantly, Jose Mourinho wasn’t the most accommodating manager to utilise and unleash the extent of Sanchez’s creative talent, but the sharp reduction in his statistical output and his dwindling confidence has created a somewhat problematic scenario at United – one that isn’t beneficial for club or player.