Alexis Sanchez isn’t the only person to blame for his Manchester United disaster
Money might not be able to cure all ills, but when you’re being paid more of it than almost any other footballer on the planet it should be enough to earn a degree of commitment and perseverance.
But Alexis Sanchez realised with one day at Manchester United that he might have made a mistake. He walked into a club that wasn’t to his liking and rather than battle to change it from within, he flaked out.
“I accepted the opportunity to go to United, it felt tempting and it was something good for me, I liked this club a lot when I was a kid. Eventually I signed but I didn’t ask for information on what was happening inside the club,” Sanchez said on Instagram on Friday.
“Sometimes there are things that you don’t realise until you get there, and I remember the first training session I had, I realised a lot of things.
“After the session I got home and I told my family and my agent ‘can you not rip up the contract to go back to Arsenal?’. They laughed, I told them there’s something that doesn’t sit right, it doesn’t seem good.
“But I already signed, I was already there. After the first few months I carried on having the same feeling, we weren’t united as a team in that moment.”
Sanchez’s Instagram monologue is designed to explain where it all went wrong at United, but the responsibility lies within. He failed to integrate with the squad and failed to perform. He was a monumental waste of money and although United managed to get his staggering wages off the books this summer, they will continue the cost of the Sanchez signing for years to come, in terms of how it’s changed their outlook. United had their fingers burned with this deal.
A lot of this is buck-passing from Sanchez. He speaks of being “hurt” by the criticism he got from reporters and that he took a lot of the blame, but what did he expect when he was the club’s best-paid player? He was also clearly affected by being dropped by Jose Mourinho and didn’t take to the Portuguese’s man-management, which was another cross against Sanchez’s willingness to fit in.
But perhaps not everything he says in his defence of his time at Old Trafford should be labelled as Sanchez trying to recover some of his reputation. There is clearly still a decent enough player in the Chilean. He is only 31 and produced four goals and nine assists for Inter Milan in 32 appearances this season. He played nearly 1,400 minutes more at United and managed only five goals and nine assists.
We know now that some of Sanchez’s complains about the environment at Carrington might have an element of truth to them. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was making similar, more coded remarks, when his honeymoon period came to an abrupt end in the final weeks of the 2018/19 season.
By then the writing was already on the wall for Sanchez, but Solskjaer was critical of the attitude of some of his teammates as well. He didn’t hold back in his criticism after the 4-0 defeat at Everton on Easter Sunday. That may have been the moment Solskjaer’s fears about what he inherited were realised. This was a fractured squad lacking motivation and desire. Not what a former United great such as Solskjaer expects.
Since then the Norwegian has placed great faith in getting the harmony right within his squad. Those players he considered a bad influence were cast aside and he’s swapped experience for youthful exuberance. Solskjaer was happy to leave himself a striker short for six months if it meant selling Romelu Lukaku in his first summer transfer window.
In a relatively short period of time there has been a transformation in the squad. It looks more cohesive as a unit. Players might still arrive and fail, but none will have the ready-made excuses available to them that Sanchez had.
The former Barcelona and Arsenal forward has to take most of the blame for the way his time at the club turned into a disaster, but Solskjaer has transformed the culture that Sanchez felt emboldened enough to complain about.