The Unfortunate Tale of Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez looks set to leave Man Utd for Inter | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

After spending the season on loan in the Italian capital, Manchester United outcast Alexis Sanchez has made his move to Inter permanent.

It marks the end of an unfortunate and short spell with United that, truth be told, was always going to end poorly when such astronomical wages are paired with such supremely high expectations.

Also, a grand piano lads? Really?

Fans couldn't have been happier with the transfer at the time, a move that also saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan head to Arsenal. While both clubs thought they had the better end of the deal, neither club benefited all that much in the long run, especially considering Mkhitaryan has also since headed for pastures new in Serie A.

Sanchez had immense responsibility dumped on his shoulders from the first moment he donned United kit. And while fans will argue that, for such a talented player on such high wages, he should've been able to put in much better showings at Old Trafford, he was never really helped along the way by the Red Devils. Not least from a tactical perspective.

The Chilean's Premier League debut, in a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham, was a sign of things to come for Sanchez. The forward looked lost as Spurs smothered him on the left flank.

Alexis Sanchez
Alexis' first appearance for United looked promising | Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Sanchez never truly found any momentum playing as United's starting left winger.

Despite being primarily used on the left wing at Arsenal in a 4-2-3-1 and being left-footed, Sanchez had also enjoyed previous spells on the right-hand side or as a second striker. And when it was clearly not working on the left flank for Alexis, these are tactical options that could've/should've been explored to get the best out of a player the club were paying (roughly) a million quid a second.

However, United - then managed by Jose Mourinho - never truly explored these tactical avenues, and instead were persistent with their system that saw him chasing the game and bereft of ideas.

Toward the end of the 2017/18 campaign, Alexis had only managed three goals and five assists in all competitions since January, but had begun to forge a partnership with Romelu Lukaku that looked promising. While Lukaku played as the 'lone striker' Sanchez would push closer to him and their link up play looked like it had potential to develop into something more.

United seemingly played a two striker system with Sanchez on occasion at the end of the season, but by the time Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 and replaced with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that idea had been swiftly abandoned.

Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez looked at his best at United when playing closer to Lukaku | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The identity crisis at Old Trafford took its toll on nobody else more than it did Alexis, and by the time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had taken then-interim charge, the Chilean's days at the club were clearly numbered.

The Norwegian never fancied him from the get go, nor did he seem to be keen on Romelu Lukaku, as he looked to rapidly change the look of the Red Devils. Injuries and, granted, inconsistent performances meant that under Solskjaer, Sanchez was never a regular fixture with an important role to play. He didn't suit the newly adopted, fast, counter attacking style of play - having quite clearly lost a yard of pace.

He followed Lukaku to Inter ahead of the 2019/20 season and, despite a slow start, has found success in Antonio Conte's side.

Sanchez has chipped in with four goals and 10 assists in all competitions in just 22 appearances. Injuries have had their way once more as he heads into the latter stages of his career, but the Chilean has proved useful in a 3-4-3 as the support to both Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, or in a two up top with the Belgian.

Alexis Sanchez
Sanchez has looked a more natural fit at Inter | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Conte's tactics allow for Sanchez, now lacking the pace and sharpness he once had, to look like a million dollars once more - or however much it is he's getting paid per minute now. Playing as either a centre forward or as a second striker, the squad around him is able to do the heavy lifting and Sanchez is able to focus on feeding the strikers close to him.

The truth is, no performances in that United shirt would've ever really justified his astronomical wages - or that piano - and getting Sanchez off the books is admittedly the best move for Manchester United. However, it cannot be ignored that a severe lack of mismanagement heavily contributed to his disappointing spell with the club. Perhaps if he had signed a few years earlier, his impact would've been more substantial.