Analysis – What’s caused Alexis Sanchez’s Manchester United decline?

Alexis Sanchez is yet to prove valuable for Manchester United

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United looks on during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 25, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United looks on during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 25, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Alexis Sanchez is yet to prove valuable for Manchester United

While there were several disappointing aspects of Manchester United’s loss to PSG last week, Alexis Sanchez’s performance was among the biggest.

Over a year into his time at Old Trafford the Chilean forward is yet to get going. With just five goals and nine appearances in 39 games, his future looks uncertain. Those are not good numbers, particularly for a player who is earning over £300,000 per week.

Sanchez was a world-class player at the Emirates, but his star has waned drastically. Indeed, if Manchester United cut their losses and try to sell him, there is unlikely to be many suitors.

But what has happened to the former Arsenal star? How can he have fallen so low in such a short space of time? There are several potential causes. Chief among them is fatigue.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 02: Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United reacts during the Group H match of the UEFA Champions League between Manchester United and Valencia at Old Trafford on October 2, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Sanchez has played 487 games in his career to date. With 12 seasons of football under his belt, that averages out at 40 games a season. It’s a lot of football for any player. It goes beyond the sheer number of games, though. The way he plays has something to do with it.

Throughout his career, Sanchez has played at a high tempo. Pace, quickness and never-ending running have been the fundamental tenets of his playing style. It has brought him success at all of his clubs. It also seems it has ruined his United career.

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That number of games, playing in that manner, has left him suffering burnout. Now he’s hurting because he is unable to adapt. Having performed in such a manner for such a long time, he’s now found himself in a situation where he cannot. So far he’s struggling to find a way around it.

He also failed to find a way to adapt to playing under Jose Mourinho. The former United manager’s style did not suit Sanchez, and he struggled. For all intents and purposes, he is still struggling to climb out of the hole Mourinho left him in.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 24: Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on November 24, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

He lost his confidence when playing under him and is yet to rediscover it. Worse still, every lousy performance is only helping to drag him downward. While others around him are flourishing under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, he is not. That must be tough on his already fragile self-confidence.

There may also be issues that are not public. Players have lives outside of football, and they can affect them on the pitch.

Whatever it may be, United need to find a way to fix Sanchez. At this moment in time, he is a costly and broken commodity. Even United’s finances are not vast enough to suffer the continual loss they are taking on the Chilean.

All hope is not lost, though. There is still a player in there somewhere. It may just take an arm around his shoulder from the right manager, be that Solksjaer or someone else, to get Sanchez firing again. Identifying the root cause of his downward spiral will be the first place to start.