Alexis Sanchez joining Manchester United from Arsenal was one of the biggest transfers of the past January window. With his contract set to run out at the end of the season, it seemed evident that the player would sign with Manchester City. However, the Red Devils were able to swoop in before that, offering Arsenal Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange for Sanchez. The offer was accepted, and the deal seemed like quite a coup for United. However, for a various reasons, the Chilean hasn’t had the best time at this new club. Now, after the most recent international break, the pressure in on Sanchez, who must step up and prove why his signing was such a big deal in the first place.
Last season was a difficult one for Alexis. He started the campaign at Arsenal, who were a club in crisis at that point. No one knew when manager Arsene Wenger would leave, and both Sanchez and fellow star Mesut Ozil only had a year left on their contracts. Come January, the club was outside of a top four spot, even though the Chilean had been trying his best to carry the team on his back. When he was able to join United in the winter, many felt Sanchez would finally get the support he needed. However, the toll of the past few months have begun to have an affect on the player, who looked burned out. This was not made any better when he had to endure the heartbreak of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Even though there were still moments of magic, all these factors lead to Alexis having an underwhelming end to the campaign.
Fortunately, for both club and player, missing the World Cup ended up being a blessing in disguise. Sanchez had gotten used to not having the summer off, as he represented the Chilean national team in three consecutive international tournaments. He didn’t suffer any quick eliminations either, as Chile made the final of each competition. Although Alexis was always honored to represent his country, having to travel and play at the international level every offseason begun to really fatigue the player. He would get tired come the end of every campaign, and he was in desperate need of some time off. With Chile missing out on the 2018 World Cup, Alexis finally got the chance to take an extended period off, and fully charge his batteries. This not only made him more eager to start the club season, but it allowed him to take part in an entire preseason, which was especially crucial as he hadn’t fully adapted to his surroundings yet.
However, injury problems have prevented him from starting this season on the front foot. Picking up an undisclosed injury in training after the first match of the season, Sanchez was forced to completely miss out on the following contest against Brighton. It’s no coincidence that United were beaten that game, as the offense looked lost without having the Chilean out on the field. He wasn’t able to recover in time to start against Spurs a week later, and had to settle for a spot on the bench. He was brought on in the 55th minute, but with Man U already down 2-0 by then, there was not much he could do.
The last game before the international break did show just what Alexis could do for United when he’s at his best. Facing a tough trip away to Burnley, who had finished 7th last season, there were worries the team would drop points once again. Thankfully, the Red Devils got the job done, with Sanchez playing a key role in the victory. He linked up play brilliantly out wide, and opened up space for his teammates further up the pitch. He helped out defensively as well, making sure to cover whenever Luke Shaw went forward. Sanchez would make his mark on the box score as well, grabbing an assist off a wonderful back post cross to Lukaku, who just had to head the ball into the back of the net.
Following the contest, it was announced Sanchez would sit out the upcoming international break in order to fully recuperate from his injuries. That was wonderful news for the club, who will need him fully fit for a crucial stretch of fixtures in the next few months.
It might be very early in the season, but United are already under immense pressure to pick up points on a consistent basis. Only four games into the campaign, they are already six points behind rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, and four points behind last seasons champions Man City. For now, that’s not the worst thing, but it’s a gap that could increase in the next few weeks. United’s next fixture is a difficult one, as they travel to face surprise package Watford, who have won every game so far this season. Soon after, the Champions League starts. Getting a win in the opener against Young Boys is crucial if United want any hopes of finishing above Juventus and Valencia.
Now, he’s healthy and refreshed, meaning there are no more excuses. Alexis Sanchez is one of the few United players who has proven himself at a world class level, and the club will need him to reach those same heights if they want to really push on this season. He might have gotten the benefit of the doubt in the past, but the pressure is now on Alexis Sanchez to perform at a high level for Manchester United.