Last January, Arsenal made what was one of the most divisive decisions in their recent history by selling Alexis Sanchez to Man Utd. The Chilean’s contract was set to expire just six months later, and so Arsenal decided to cut their losses and make some cash from his sale, in addition to landing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as opposed to letting him go on a free later in the year.
Of course, Man Utd and Arsenal have a rich history of rivalry, and so selling him to the Red Devils was very controversial, and it’s fair to say that a decent chunk of supporters will have thought that Arsenal got the short end of the stick with the deal.
However, fast forward nearly a year, and the actual landscape is looking very different.
Despite moving to Man Utd from Arsenal as one of Europe’s best and deadliest attacking players, the Chilean has been anything but that potent at Old Trafford.
He’s quickly fallen from being a huge name to just being another player at the club, and Jose Mourinho has regularly opted not to start him already during his short tenure at Old Trafford.
That, for a change, isn’t because of Mourinho’s rash decision making. In fact, it’s quite to the contrary. Sanchez was given ample opportunities to impress at Man Utd, but practically every time he played, he looked poor. He’s had a few good games, but for every good performance, there have been weeks of mediocrity.
From a lack of energy and commitment to a lack of potency and creativity, Sanchez looks like a completely different player to the one that was the main man in the Arsenal attack year-after-year.
All the while, amidst Sanchez’s struggles, Arsenal have moved on, and they’re looking like a completely different team. Under Unai Emery, they’re quickly turning into the force that helped build Arsene Wenger’s legendary career, but there are shades of his first years, rather than his later years, under the Gunners’ new Spanish boss. Arsenal clearly saw the advantages of beginning a new era without Sanchez, whilst Man Utd evidently saw a bright future with Sanchez at the heart of it.
That, then, indicates the real problem at Old Trafford. Whilst Arsenal are thinking ahead and impressing, Man Utd are stuck in the past. This isn’t just true of Sanchez, either. You can look at anyone from Nemanja Matic to, indeed, Jose Mourinho himself, and you’ll see individuals that may have been unstoppable in 2012, but are no longer so deadly.
For Man Utd, then, the deal for Sanchez is very much reflective of where they’ve been, and where they’re going – and the direction, at present, is not looking like a very good one.