Thu. Oct 1st, 2020

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Alexis Sanchez’s Manchester United transfer turned into a nightmare

7 min read

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vowed in January that Alexis Sanchez would ‘come back in the summer and prove you all wrong’ when questioned over the uncertain future lurking ahead for the outcast forward.

He will now certainly be regretting those bullish words. Sanchez failed to defy any of his critics, and his permanent departure to Inter Milan only serves to further highlight his horror chapter at Old Trafford.

Despite earning up to £560,000-a-week after moving from Arsenal on a free transfer, Sanchez was unable to muster any kind of form and rapidly found himself watching on from the sidelines. He fell victim to the toxic dressing atmosphere under Jose Mourinho, a string of niggling injuries and an attitude that saw even the typically-affable Solskjaer lose his patience.

Alexis Sanchez was unable to live up to the hype and his hefty salary at Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez was unable to live up to the hype and his hefty salary at Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez was unable to live up to the hype and his hefty salary at Manchester United

The 31-year-old endured a horror spell at Old Trafford and was then shipped out to Inter Milan

The 31-year-old endured a horror spell at Old Trafford and was then shipped out to Inter Milan

The 31-year-old endured a horror spell at Old Trafford and was then shipped out to Inter Milan

After scoring just five goals in 45 matches for United, Sanchez was shipped out on loan to the Italian capital and has now settled down there for the long term in the hope of rejuvenating his stagnating career. 

His lack of appetite to fight for his place at one of the most prestigious, albeit demanding, clubs in the world saw United content to scrap his contract. A pitiful £9million pay-off brought an end to the forgettable saga, although Sanchez had been set to earn a further £50m across the two years still remaining on the deal.  

It would not be unfair to suggest that the majority of United fans are relieved to see the back of him. The gaping chasm between them and Sanchez became even larger after explosive footage surfaced on Thursday. In it, the 31-year-old admitted that he had wanted to return to Arsenal after just one day working under Mourinho. He also alluded to a failed move to arch rivals Manchester City. 

Sanchez scored five goals in 45 matches after joining on a free transfer from Arsenal in 2018

Sanchez scored five goals in 45 matches after joining on a free transfer from Arsenal in 2018

Sanchez scored five goals in 45 matches after joining on a free transfer from Arsenal in 2018

In an explosive video Sanchez blamed others for his failure to perform during his United spell

In an explosive video Sanchez blamed others for his failure to perform during his United spell

In an explosive video Sanchez blamed others for his failure to perform during his United spell

‘The first days that I was with my colleagues, sometimes there are things that you do not realise until you arrive,’ he said. ‘The first training I had I realised many things. I came home and I told my representative: “Can’t the contract be terminated to return to Arsenal?”

‘They start laughing and I told them that something did not sit right with me. It had already been signed.’

Quite simply, the numbers speak for themselves – and they certainly do not justify Sanchez attempting to scramble to any semblance of high ground. He scored a goal every 555 minutes and was injured for a grand total of 124 days during his time in the north.  

The fall from grace is staggering. Sanchez netted 80 goals in 166 matches for Arsenal before moving to United in a swap deal for Henrikh Mhkitaryan almost three years ago. The bombshell move was infamously accompanied by social media video of him playing ‘Glory Glory Man United’ on the piano, in hindsight the worst possible type of unveiling.

The Chilean scored a goal every 555 minutes and was injured for a grand total of 124 days

The Chilean scored a goal every 555 minutes and was injured for a grand total of 124 days

The Chilean scored a goal every 555 minutes and was injured for a grand total of 124 days

Sanchez was unveiled by United in the infamous social media video of him playing the piano

Sanchez was unveiled by United in the infamous social media video of him playing the piano

Sanchez was unveiled by United in the infamous social media video of him playing the piano

Musical skills aside, Sanchez was widely viewed as a coup for United at the time. The outgoing Mkhitaryan failed to impress after joining from Borussia Dortmund and in exchange the club were adding an experienced goalscorer to their ranks. Or so they thought.

Sanchez’s last game for United, albeit an unofficial one, came against Sheffield United behind closed doors at Carrington. Phil Jagielka and Richard Stearman, both defenders over the age of 30, lined up against him at centre back. In a frustrating encounter that effectively summed up his dilemma, the Chilean was unable to score. Just a week later, Sanchez’s loan move to Inter was rubber stamped. 

The 19 months prior to the ending of that nightmare marriage were marred by poor form and persistent whisperings over Sanchez’s reserved nature. It is well-established that dressing rooms at clubs thrive on camaraderie between team-mates. Unfortunately for Sanchez, and most other United players, Mourinho’s time in charge saw a splintered squad and barely-disguised misery leap to the fore.

As the coach’s reign came crashing down around him, Sanchez became an increasingly isolated figure. The forward was not known for socialising with those around him, Romelu Lukaku being the only glaring exception. He had also been quiet at Arsenal, but Mourinho’s sinking ship only made the issue worse.

The dressing room atmosphere under Jose Mourinho was toxic and Sanchez notably suffered

The dressing room atmosphere under Jose Mourinho was toxic and Sanchez notably suffered

The dressing room atmosphere under Jose Mourinho was toxic and Sanchez notably suffered

Sanchez became an increasingly isolated figure and rarely socialised with his team-mates

Sanchez became an increasingly isolated figure and rarely socialised with his team-mates

Sanchez became an increasingly isolated figure and rarely socialised with his team-mates

SANCHEZ’S MAN UNITED STATS:

2017-18: Premier League – 12 games, 2 goals, 3 assists

Champions League – 2 games

FA Cup – 4 games, 1 goal, 2 assists

2018-19: Premier League – 20 games, 1 goal, 3 assists

Champions League – 4 games

FA Cup – 3 games, 1 goal, 1 assist

Total – 45 games, 5 goals, 9 assists 

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A source told Sportsmail just a matter of months after Sanchez’s arrival: ‘He looks like someone who doesn’t want to be here. The whole thing doesn’t seem right and he looks like a lost boy.’

It is understood Sanchez would walk around the training complex appearing thoroughly miserable, and could often be found eating on his own in the canteen.

His league debut for United came in a 2-0 defeat against Tottenham in January. His arrival saw Mourinho attempt to shoehorn his newest addition into his team, and effectively broke apart a winning formula. Paul Pogba was hauled off and dropped, while Anthony Martial undoubtedly suffered the most. The Frenchman had scored three goals in four games before Sanchez’s signing, but failed to find the back of the net for the rest of the season.

It was the combination of his stuttering fortunes on the field, and the hefty wage package that frustrated those around him at Carrington, that saw United supporters begin to lose their patience. Mourinho’s graces were also growing thin. The divisive tactician is believed to have referenced Sanchez’s salary to motivate him, but only helped further force apart the superstar from his team-mates.

Sanchez's arrival saw several stars dropped and soon the forward found himself benched too

Sanchez's arrival saw several stars dropped and soon the forward found himself benched too

Sanchez’s arrival saw several stars dropped and soon the forward found himself benched too

Sanchez's hefty £560,000-a-week wage package seemed to frustrate his United team-mates

Sanchez's hefty £560,000-a-week wage package seemed to frustrate his United team-mates

Sanchez’s hefty £560,000-a-week wage package seemed to frustrate his United team-mates

He scored just three times for United in the latter half of the 2017-18 campaign, despite netting eight goals for Arsenal in the months leading up to his departure. And his form failed to improve during the beginning of the next campaign. Sanchez’s struggles were evident, and he could not score in any of the club’s first five matches. The likes of Burnley, Watford and Wolves were able to successfully shut him out. 

The extraordinary deal cost United up to £560,000-per-week once all aspects of the four-and-a-half year contract were factored in. Sanchez’s base salary was £300,000-per-week, and he also benefited from an additional net payment of £100,000-per-week from his £5m-a-year image rights outlay.

A further £5m clause was also inserted, payable if Sanchez made 30 starts in a single campaign. Sanchez’s agent, Fernanrdo Felicevich, collected a handsome windfall totalling the same amount over the course of his client’s contract. Additional bonuses and employers’ national insurance payments then took the potential overall figure to the eye-watering amount that proved increasingly divisive at United. It was the highest salary the Premier League had ever seen. 

Sanchez has admitted to approaching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and asking to be sent out to Italy

Sanchez has admitted to approaching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and asking to be sent out to Italy

Sanchez has admitted to approaching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and asking to be sent out to Italy

SANCHEZ COMPLETED MATCHES FOR MAN UNITED 
Date Opposition Comp. H/A Score Goals
January 31, 2018 Tottenham Hotspur PL A Lost 0-2 0
February 3, 2018 Huddersfield Town PL H Won 2-0 1
February 11, 2018 Newcastle United PL A Lost 0-1 0
March 5, 2018 Crystal Palace PL A Won 3-2 0
March 13, 2018 Sevilla CL H Lost 1-2 0
April 15, 2018 West Bromwich PL H Lost 0-1 0
April 29, 2018 Arsenal PL H Won 2-1 0
May 13, 2018 Watford PL H Won 1-0 0
May 19, 2018 Chelsea FAC Wembley Lost 0-1 0
August 10, 2018 Leicester City PL H Won 2-1 0

Former team-mate at United, Ander Herrera, was left largely speechless by Sanchez’s failures. He admitted he had ‘no explanation’ due to the attacker having ‘everything to succeed’. Old Trafford great, and current Sky Sports pundit, Gary Neville opted for a much more unforgiving stance.

‘I thought he would be a forward who would play all across the line, who scored goals and was tenacious, but he has been an absolute disaster,’ he said. ‘I have no idea what’s happened to Alexis Sanchez. There must be two of them. The one that we saw playing for Barcelona and Arsenal for years and the one that turned up in Manchester. I have no idea what it is.’

Sanchez may also be unable to easily identify the reasons behind one of the worst transfers in modern history, but it is an inescapable fact that both parties will be relieved to finally put an end to the turbulent chapter.

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