A make or break season for Alexis Sanchez?

The 2019/20 campaign is arguably the most important of Alexis Sánchez’s career. Why? Because he has a point to prove. After joining in January 2018, Sánchez has managed just five goals in 45 appearances. A scoring record which is simply not good enough for a player of his quality and one that wears the iconic number seven shirt. 

Sánchez turns 31 in December and is one of the club’s highest earners putting United in a position where they simply cannot afford for him to underperform again this season. Since joining the club, Sánchez became an embodiment of the previous manager’s lacklustre style and looked a shadow of his former self. He was a player that could singlehandily grab games by the scruff of the neck and win them with Arsenal.

This is something that United have been lacking since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Romelu Lukaku has left the club and his goalscoring will need to come from somewhere else. Lukaku scored 15 goals in all competitions last season, a handy output for a player that didn’t always feature prominently. His departure also means that Sánchez should be afforded more opportunities to recreate his scoring form. 

There is no better time for Alexis Sánchez to step up and reproduce some of the form that saw him score 24 Premier League goals for Arsenal during 2016/17. There is recent evidence to suggest this can be done. Take the 2019 Copa America for example. Sánchez seemed to have the bit between his teeth again and was a standout for Chile during the tournament.

He scored twice and assisted once in the opening stages of the tournament but most notably he impressed against Uruguay. He was arguably the best player on the pitch in Chile’s defeat to Uruguay. His chance creation was spectacular and a certain nippiness was back in his game, something that would excite United fans. 

The Copa America tournament coupled with a slight hamstring injury meant that Sánchez wasn’t able to feature in the club’s pre-season campaign. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer instead opted to give playing time to new signing Daniel James. Solskjaer has made it clear that he intends to play youth this season but the departure of Lukaku means that experienced players need to step up now more than ever.

If he can rediscover his form, United’s attack will take on a whole new dimension. The key to that is Sánchez playing in a role where he can receive the ball close to the box and drive at opposition defenders. When he featured last season, he would almost certainly receive the ball 50 yards from goal and look lost.

This is simply not Alexis Sánchez’s game, at all. His mental attitude may also have something to do with it. When he was at Arsenal it was evident that his work rate was contagious. He played the game with a smile on his face and his teammates embraced him in a way that hasn’t been seen at Old Trafford. 

There is no doubt that his age may have something to do with his form slump and he is not that athlete that he was three or four years ago. In saying that, there is still a player in there that can be instrumental for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The new manager may possess the tools to unlock the player but ultimately, it’s up to Alexis Sánchez himself. Only time will tell. 

Written by Euan James

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