Sanchez blames lack of game time

Alexis Sanchez, who hopes to revive his career, in an Inter jersey in front of their numerous trophies.
Alexis Sanchez, who hopes to revive his career, in an Inter jersey in front of their numerous trophies. ST PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ALEXIS_OFFICIA1

Chilean happy he went to United but heavy international schedule may have led to slide

LONDON • Alexis Sanchez claimed he did not regret joining Manchester United but insisted that he was not given enough time at Old Trafford to prove his worth.

The 30-year-old Chilean forward joined former United striker Romelu Lukaku at Serie A club Inter Milan last month on a season-long loan, after 19 months at Old Trafford with little success.

"I'm very happy I went to Manchester United," he told BBC Sport.

"I've always said that. It's the club that's won the most in England.

"When I went to Arsenal it was fantastic, I was happy there, but United were growing at the time, they were buying players to win something.

"I wanted to join them and win everything. I don't regret going there."

The Red Devils believed they were closing the gap on Manchester City when they beat their local rivals to the signature of Sanchez in January last year.

Such was their faith in him that he became United's highest earner on wages amounting to £400,000 (S$670,500) a week.

I NEEDED TO PLAY MORE

If they (United) would let me play I'll do my best. Sometimes I'd play 60 minutes then I wouldn't play the next game - and I didn't know why.

ALEXIS SANCHEZ, who has joined Inter on loan, does not regret going to United but is upset with not being picked regularly.

However, during his stint in Manchester, he scored just five goals in 45 games as City won five major trophies, including back-to-back Premier League titles.

Also, he started only 31 of 77 possible matches.

It was a remarkable fall from grace for a player who scored a goal nearly every two games (80 goals in 166) in 3½ seasons for Arsenal and 47 times in three years at Barcelona before that.

So disastrous has his signing been for United that it even provoked a big change in the club's recruitment strategy this summer.

In the past, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward's determination to make a splash in the transfer market would have seen him tempted by star names like Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez or Philippe Coutinho being touted by Real Madrid and Barcelona for a buyer.

Instead, United focused their attention on young, British talent even when it meant paying a premium for Premier League players such as the £80 million Leicester demanded for Harry Maguire or spending £50 million for 21-year-old Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace.

Many believe Sanchez's rapid decline can be attributed to burnout from representing his country in major international tournaments for four straight summers between 2014 and 2017.

Yet, even after a rare summer off in 2018, he completed 90 minutes and scored just once in the Premier League last season.

Injuries also contributed to his downturn and his former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger pointed to a lack of confidence after a poor start to his United career, from which he never recovered.

"The strength of Alexis Sanchez is to show initiative, to dribble, to take people on," said the Frenchman last season. "These players are the most vulnerable when they have no confidence any more."

Sanchez did impress during Chile's run to the Copa America semi-finals this summer, though, scoring twice.

"I think that I'm happy when I play for my national team," he said.

"If they (United) would let me play I'll do my best. Sometimes I'd play 60 minutes then I wouldn't play the next game - and I didn't know why."

After the South America tournament, Sanchez did not take part in United's pre-season matches and did not feature in any of the team's four Premier League matches so far, with the club citing an injury he picked up during the Copa.

"I felt fine," he insisted. "I think I did well in the Copa America.

"After that, it (not playing any pre-season games) depended on the coach to let me play. You need to ask him this question, not me."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Sanchez blames lack of game time'. Print Edition | Subscribe