Still top or a real flop – what happened with Alexis Sánchez?

Alexis Sánchez, still the absolute star in the Chilean La Roja, is the topic of debate in England for months. Since Sánchez joined Manchester United in January, his performances have been poor, to say the least. His actions on and off the pitch have led people to believe the golden days of Alexis Sánchez are over.

“El Niño Maravilla,” Chile´s all-time top scorer, the best paid and – probably the most debated – player in the English Premier League. Expectations were high, when Alexis Sánchez left Arsenal for Manchester United in January 2018. The Chilean star had scored 60 goals in four seasons, led the London club to two FA cups and was a key player at the Chilean squad that won the Copa América two times in a row.

But since arriving in Manchester, injuries, personal life problems and a reportedly bad relationship with United head coach José Mourinho have caused Sánchez to score only four goals for the Red Devils so far. Not the statistics you´d expect from someone who earns around £500,000 a week. But although scoring the winner at Newcastle away, he didn´t even play in the Champions League against Juventus and was brought in five minutes before final time against Chelsea.

The debate about whether Sánchez belongs at Manchester United, is worth his salary and is still able to reach his former world class level is being held daily on English talk shows and in the tabloids. What are the reasons behind Sánchez´ setback?

The coach

One of the main causes Sánchez isn´t shining as he used to, is José Mourinho. The controversial coach of Manchester United is known for his defensive strategy, which makes it more difficult for attackers to show their full potential. Mourinho prefers equalizing 0-0 than losing 3-4.

Result comes first, and that is at the expense of attackers such as Lingard, Rashford and Sánchez. At Arsenal, under Arsene Wenger, it was the opposite: the attractive football played in the Emirates Stadium turned Sánchez in one of the most feared players in the Premier League.

His position

When playing with Sánchez, Mourinho preferred using the Chilean on the leftwing, as Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku played in the center. When last weekend against Bournemouth, Lukaku was absent due to an injury, Sánchez finally got his chance playing in the center and played one of his best matches for Manchester United so far. But what will happen with Sánchez when Lukaku comes back?

The club

At Arsenal, Sánchez was looking for club that competed for the Champions League and the Premier League title. Manchester City, United´s eternal rival, had its eyes on Sánchez and fans and critics believe United only bought Sánchez to make sure City didn´t.

But Manchester United under Mourinho is not the United it was under Ferguson. Stars like Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand and Rooney are with modest players such as Lindelof, Herrera, Valencia and Fellaini, while players as Pogba and Martial have not shown yet why people consider them to be the biggest talents in the world.

His age (and body)

Since coming to United, Sánchez has been struggling with injuries. Professional football in the highly intense Premier League, two matches per week against the world´s best defenders in combination with the explosive playing style of Sánchez have taken its toll on his body.

Former player Jaime Carragher said: “The more I watch him in a Manchester United shirt, the more convinced I am his poor final year at Arsenal was not due to a declining team or loss of motivation as he prepared to leave. Sanchez’s best years have gone”.

“It happens. As footballers we enjoy peak periods and there is a common assumption this is usually between the ages of 27-32. With strikers that is not always the case. Some of the best I played with – Torres (Fernando Torres at Liverpool, red) being a prime example – were never better than in their early to mid-20s. I see history repeating itself with Sánchez. He looks like a footballer with too much mileage in his legs.

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