The most spectacular backfire in transfer history? Alexis Sanchez and Man Utd a match made in hell


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The Chilean’s nightmare spell at Old Trafford has ended and there is little positive to say of an experience from which nobody draws much credit

It is amazing to think that it is less than two years since Arsenal fans were busy appealing to Alexis Sanchez to stay at the Emirates Stadium as Arsene Wenger’s star man edged his way towards a move to Manchester City.

There were no such pleas among the Manchester United faithful before the Chile international sealed a loan move to Inter on Thursday.

Indeed, there can be no understating the disaster that has been his 19-month spell at Old Trafford.

The decision by Jose Mourinho and Ed Woodward to do everything they could to avoid seeing an already-unstoppable City adding Sanchez to their forward line backfired about as spectacularly as any transfer in modern history.

At a time when City are being rightly questioned for the ethical issues behind their rise to dominance, their decision not to break the bank for Sanchez is one which very much lands on the right side of the ledger.

United ended up offering the former Udinese and Barcelona man a £390,000 ($477,000) weekly salary and £75,000 ($92,000) starting bonus, which means he has cost the club around £55 million ($67m) since his arrival in January 2018.

In return, they got five goals in all competitions, a string of desperately poor performances and a dressing room full of players wondering why the guy contributing the least was getting paid by far the most.

It was exactly the sort of scenario Pep Guardiola was keen to avoid having on his hands at City, and which preceded the Premier League champions’ decision to pull out of the race for Sanchez.

“Normally we try to be stable with the wages of the players because I think it is good for the team and stability of the club,” Guardiola said shortly after the attacker signed for United.

“I’ve never put pressure on a club when they believe it is too much. Immediately, I accept that decision and move forward to find another solution. The stability of the club is the most important thing.”

How prophetic that statement has become over time as Sanchez has struggled time and again to have any sort of impact at Old Trafford, all the while raising the salary expectations of every team-mate approaching a new deal and every new arrival entering negotiations.


Alexis Sanchez, Jose Mourinho, Man Utd

The more dry-witted United fans would suggest that the 30-year-old’s most stirring performance at the Theatre of Dreams was on the piano during his introductory video posted on social media, and it would be hard to challenge that assertion.

From day one there were queries about exactly what Sanchez would be able to offer United. Many fans quizzed by Goal upon his arrival suggested that if he was to be used as an alternative to Anthony Martial, then his addition was unnecessary in the very least.

Nobody, though, could have foreseen just how disastrous his United career would turn out.

He leaves with a grand total of three goals in 32 Premier League appearances, and but for a stirring performance in the 2018 FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley, it is difficult to pick out any matches in which he truly looked like a good fit for United under either one of Mourinho or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Portuguese seemed not to know how to get the best out of him, while the current manager – who ended up handing Sanchez only four league starts – threw the ball squarely into the Chile international’s court as everyone began to wonder how the situation might be improved.

“I can’t do anything about Alexis Sanchez,” said Solskjaer in February when asked whether he had a masterplan to kick the player out of his funk. “When he plays, he needs to finds himself because we know there’s a quality player there.”


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