When Alexis Sanchez signed for Manchester United in a straight swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it was almost like a weight had been lifted off the shoulders of football fans throughout the country, not least Arsenal and United supporters. From what seemed a certain move to City, he decided he was set on a move to the red side of Manchester following talk of a switch to PSG…
Sanchez’s poor attitude and obvious discontent at Arsenal was put to bed and he landed his ‘dream’ move to Manchester United. Things seemed well. Arsenal had secured two big names, whilst United had signed one of the world’s best – and made him the most-handsomely paid player in the country.
However, since his move up north, he’s caused Jose Mourinho a number of headaches.
The Chilean has struggled since signing for United, and many names in football, including Charlie Nicholas and Paul Scholes, have suggested he’s having a negative effect on his teammates – the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have all produced sub-par performances of late…
So is this the case and should Alexis be dropped or deployed in a different role?
Firstly, let’s look at the personal performance of Sanchez since he moved to Old Trafford. He’s scored one goal and provided two assists in 10 appearances and more often than not has led the stats on giving the ball away (247 times since his United debut) – whether he is overplaying and trying to justify his place in the side, or simply enduring a bad run of form, it’s not been a good start for El Niño Maravilla.
‘Surely the manager has to see that for the last four or five games Sanchez has not been good enough.’
- Paul Scholes
‘When you go to a team to play you don’t lose all your talent. In some ways I feel sorry for him but it’s just not going for him.’
- Rio Ferdinand
And it appears that the likes of Rashford and Pogba are suffering from Sanchez’s consistent inclusion in Mourinho’s side.
“Right now, I’m probably not learning the most on the pitch. In training is where I’m doing most of my learning. You have to take it into the game and today it worked. Personally, taking the confidence from this game into the next games is important.”
- Marcus Rashford
That may be the case but after a stellar performance against Liverpool on Saturday, on the left hand side where Rashford really thrived, Sanchez was then placed on the left against Sevilla last night, at the expense of Rashford, who was moved to the right where he looked uncomfortable.
‘(Marcus) Rashford was frightening and played well on the left but he changed him to bring Sanchez into his best position. I think Marcus’ best position is on the left but Sanchez gave the ball away so many times.’
- Paul Scholes
“Sanchez, at the moment, does not deserve to be in the team. It’s too individual. He is giving the ball away too often.
“I’m sure a lot of Manchester United fans must be looking and saying ‘when is he going to do something for us?’
“He looks as though he is trying hard, but this is Manchester United and you’ve got to deliver on a game-by-game basis and he is not.”
- Charlie Nicholas
Although Rashford wasn’t dropped, he was ousted from his preferred position, and if this occurs on a regular basis, it could be argued it will negatively affect the young Englishman’s progression.
The below screenshots show Rashford’s heatmap (left) vs. Palace and Alexis’ heatmap (right) vs. Palace – they’re both trying to get in the same area of the pitch to have an impact. But does this come down to a flaw in Mourinho’s tactics?
The form of Paul Pogba has been a topic for debate ever since he joined United – his fee was a record at the time and although he’s shown glimpses of brilliance, he hasn’t reached the lofty heights everyone expected. He was dropped for United’s Premier League and Champions League fixtures throughout February, and even started on the bench against Sevilla last night, albeit due to injury.
Yet, speaking on Monday, Charlie Nicholas said he didn’t believe Pogba’s current from warranted a starting place in the side, and suggested that Sanchez’s arrival has caused confusion for the French international in terms of his role and position in the team.
‘Even if Paul Pogba was fit I don’t think he would get in the United team, as he has suffered from the confusion that Alexis Sanchez’s arrival has brought to the team.’
- Charlie Nicholas
Frank Lampard also believes that Pogba isn’t in good enough form for the United first XI, and that his injury was a blessing in disguise for Mourinho on Saturday.
‘‘I think the withdrawal of Paul Pogba sort of fell into Jose Mourinho’s lap in terms of team selection.
‘Players knew their jobs without the ball and that’s what Jose Mourinho wants from his players. Matic and McTominay were disciplined in midfield and they set out from the start like that.
‘Those two in front of the back four, that is a job Pogba would struggle to do, especially in these big games. They shielded the back four and were aggressive.’
Yet, surely if Pogba isn’t playing well enough to start, then neither is Sanchez?
Again – look at Pogba’s heatmap (right) vs. Palace alongside Sanchez (left) – again, both players are looking to get into that left-hand side / cutting in, albeit Rashford was a substitute.
So, what’s the cause of Alexis’ downfall? Mourinho’s tactics of late haven’t helped. He’s playing the Chilean in positions Pogba and Rashford should be stretching.
In this particular United side, Alexis should be deployed on the right, and Rashford on the left, which would provide more space for Pogba to strive into in the centre of the park. At times, you can throw a blanket over the pair which makes it easy to defend against.
Moutinho needs to change his outdated tactics for all three of United’s most potent attacking options to prosper, or face another season of disappointment and potentially be shown the door…