No player quite embodies Manchester United’s failings in the transfer market in recent years more than Alexis Sanchez.
Fred has flopped, Eric Bailly has bombed and Romelu Lukaku isn’t even at Old Trafford anymore. And sure, even Sir Alex Ferguson had his misgivings in the transfer market: Kleberson, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Massimo Taibi to name a few.
But not a single one of them were as high-profile or carried as much expectation as Sanchez when he arrived, with the Red Devils stealing a player who had almost single-handedly kept Arsenal competing for Champions League places right from under the noses of rivals Manchester City.
But ask any Arsenal fan and they’ll probably tell you the same thing: he was on his way down and they were glad to see him go.
Since signing for United, the Chilean has managed just five goals in 45 appearances, after scoring 80 in 166 for Arsenal. The stats behind his demise are as enraging as they are heartbreaking.
But, according to reports, it looks like Sanchez might just have one last chance to prove himself, with the Telegraph claiming Serie A giants AS Roma have held talks with United about taking the forward on loan.
Such a deal would have huge ramifications for all involved, so, who would be the winners and losers? We’ve taken a look.
Winner: Manchester United
You could say that, given their outlay in wages for Sanchez since he joined, coupled with the fact they had to let Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was underwhelming but still held market value, go the opposite way, United are the losers here. But let’s face it, Sanchez is hanging around Old Trafford like a bad smell and is a constant reminder of United’s absolutely terrible transfer policy in recent years, much of which is blamed on Ed Woodward by fans.
Sanchez’s wages are believed to be within the region of £391,000-a-week, increasing to an astonishing £500,000 once bonuses are added. There is no way in hell Roma are going to pay all of that and United aren’t in a position to demand it, either. But anything they can get off the books is a bonus.
Furthermore, it really isn’t hard to spot the trend in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s recruitment over the summer. Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire all tick three specific boxes: they’re British, they fill a specific need in the United squad and they’re all aged 26 or under, meaning they’re either in their prime, or yet to hit it.
Sanchez was already 29 when he joined Man Utd and having scored 24 goals in 38 Premier League games for Arsenal during the 2016/17 season, he managed just seven in 19 in 2017/18 before moving at the midway point. That’s a drop from 0.63 goals per game to 0.37 goals per game in a matter of months – United should have known better.
It’s not a permanent solution, nor is it the most financially viable, but getting Sanchez out the door, for now at least, puts Solskjaer another step closer toward the vision he has for Man Utd.
Loser: Ed Woodward
As mentioned, Woodward takes a lot of stick from United supporters and while this summer’s transfer business has gone some way to rectifying the mistakes of the past, they won’t erase the embarrassment, frustration or anger regarding these Sanchez-esque deals.
This whole saga represents a low point in the post-Ferguson era for Man Utd, hoovering up every and any player who has a big name and is available, or wanted by a rival, or can basically sell some shirts and keep the Red Devils relevant on the global stage.
In truth, United should have appointed a director of football years ago. Every successful entity in the footballing world has one to ensure that, no matter how many managers come and go through the door, the club will always maintain direction and won’t feel the need to rip up months of hard work in specifically tailoring a squad, only to have to start the process back from square one.
In the absence of a leader in the market, Woodward has done his best, but Sanchez will forever be the symbol of his haphazard approach.
Winner: Alexis Sanchez
From preparing for his debut within the tiny confines of the Yeovil dressing room to being constantly plagued by injury, Sanchez’s time at Man Utd has been a complete and utter disaster. Of course, it’s not all his fault, if you’re injured, you’re injured. But something needs to change for this once-god-like footballer.
— Yeovil Town FC (@YTFC) January 22, 2018
A move to Roma, even a temporary one, gives him one last chance in a major European league. There’s no Paul Pogba around, so he’ll be the main man, and with no young whippersnappers at the level of Marcus Rashford, he should see plenty of the ball and have teammates around him looking to offer up chances.
Roma qualified for this season’s Europa League group stages, so European football is on offer. However, the Coppa Italia isn’t taken quite as seriously in Italy as the FA Cup is in England, so there will still be plenty of chances to rest between matches and, besides, Paulo Fonseca is a very intelligent coach. He is easily capable of judging how much of a demand to put on Sanchez, and when to pull him from the frontline for a well-earned break.
The backing he’ll get from the Giallorossi supporters will be second to none and that can only fill him with confidence.
Loser: Justin Kluivert
With just two goals and eight assists in 35 games, it’s safe to say Justin Kluivert’s move from Ajax to Roma last summer hasn’t exactly worked out so far. Still, he’s only 20 and has plenty of time to develop.
You could say Sanchez joining will give Kluivert the chance to learn from one of the best players to grace the game in the six to seven years. You could say that. You can definitely say it will limit the Dutchman’s chances.
Alongside Kluivert and Sanchez (if the latter joins), Fonseca will also have the likes of Cengiz Under – who provided 11 assists last season – Diego Perotti and Javier Pastore at his disposal, to name a few.
Kluivert will have to work twice as hard to get a sniff of football with Sanchez around and at his age, that could have potentially disastrous consequences for his development. Either way, this certainly wouldn’t have been in his ideal script upon making that £15.16m move from Amsterdam last summer.
Winner: Anthony Martial & Mason Greenwood
Anthony Martial, donning his shiny new No.9 shirt, looked every inch the top-class player he’s so long promised to be against Chelsea on Sunday and fully deserved his goal in that 4-0 rout. Is this just another flash in the pan, though? Time will tell. But with Sanchez gone, the Frenchman will be firmly thrown into the deep end as one of the cornerstones of Solskjaer’s counter-attacking machine and, to be honest, it could be the making of him.
Another youngster looking to make his mark at Old Trafford is 17-year-old Mason Greenwood, who came on as a late sub against Chelsea and has a hugely impressive 42 goals in 45 games to his name for United at youth level. Solskjaer holds him in the highest esteem and will be looking for any and every chance to get him minutes this season.
With no Sanchez to consider, that becomes decidedly easier for the Norwegian to do and from Michael Owen to Wayne Rooney, we can all see just what an incredible impact an English striker can have at this age.
Winner: AS Roma
Look, this could all go belly up. Sanchez could come to Roma and fail to score a single goal, provide no assists or, worse, find himself on the treatment table again. But guess what? Roma won’t mind one bit, he’s on loan and if a problem occurs, it isn’t theirs to deal with.
On the flip side, last season’s sixth-placed Serie A side will bring on board a player with proven class at the ultimate elite level and, if he still retains that tunnel-vision mentality that all elite sportsmen and women – no, any successful person in any field – has, he’ll be out to prove he can still cut it.
Regardless, the fact that it’s a loan move and it looks as if Roma will only have to stump up a very small percentage of Sanchez’s weekly wage means this really is a risk-free move for the Italian side, one which could see them reap some lofty rewards.