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#TeamFT Analysis: How do Man United get the best out of Sanchez?

Dean Carr 10 Mar 2018
SEVILLE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Sevilla FC and Manchester United at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on February 21, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

For a team that has so many quality players and a manager that is used to working with high-calibre talents, getting the best out of their top players has been something of an issue for Manchester United this season.

Paul Pogba has had his struggles of late, failing to register a goal or assist in any of his last seven games in all competitions, while forwards Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have all suffered at different stages of the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may never be the same, but he is not at the top of their list of worries - holding that place could well be Alexis Sanchez, who has struggled to make an instant impact at Old Trafford. Scoring just once in his first six games for United, even his first goal came in unconvincing fashion after tapping home the rebound of his saved penalty against Huddersfield.

While it’s been a far from ideal star to life with his new club, there’s no need for panic surrounding Sanchez, who is a world-class talent and should eventually come good. In his own eyes, the first half of this season was a waste, after being forced to stay and play for a club he no longer wished to be part of.

Transforming that state of mind back to one of ultimate motivation is something which may not happen straight away, but many would’ve anticipated a far greater impact from Sanchez, who took no time to settle in at Arsenal.

During United’s 3-2 comeback win over Crystal Palace on Monday night, Sanchez was relatively ineffective throughout, losing possession no fewer than 34 times. After the game, former Manchester United player and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville gave his verdict, saying: “Alexis was poor tonight, there's no doubt about that.

“He was trying to play one-twos from 40 yards from goal. He is no good from there.

“For me, I see Alexis Sanchez as being at his best in the left channel, attacking defenders, committing them, playing one-two combination. He has to try and get in those positions for Manchester United.”

Neville’s evaluation was correct, with the stats showing that the Chilean managed just three touches in the opposition area all evening, finding himself being most heavily involved in areas of the pitch where you would want an advanced midfielder.

Sanchez is not the player that needs to be finding others further ahead of him - he should be the one being found, then causing havoc by being positive and direct with the ball at his feet. It’s going to take some time to adapt from what are chalk and cheese styles between Arsenal and United and there is no doubt that it will take him some time to adapt.

The lack of an out-and-out number 10 may also be hampering Sanchez, who moved further infield during the second half following a tactical shift from Jose Mourinho at half-time. Juan Mata is perhaps the only prototypical number 10 in the United squad and Sanchez has started alongside the Spaniard just three times so far.

Sanchez played his best football at Arsenal when featuring alongside Mesut Ozil, but it seems United lack a player in that mould at present, with Paul Pogba, who is more of a box-to-box midfielder, potentially the next closest thing they have to such a player.

Some aspects of Sanchez’s struggles may come down to an overwhelming keenness to impress and always be involved, but the former Barcelona man needs to stick to what he’s good at and remain disciplined and patient, with it more important that he is involved more in areas where he can truly hurt the opposition.

Because it’s Man United and because it’s a slightly divisive character in Sanchez, many will be hoping this is an unsuccessful marriage. The attention on him will be severe and people will be quick to jump all over any sign of a disappointing performance, but Sanchez is far too good of a player not to eventually make things work at United.

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