Sanchez has scored five times in 45 games for United; Chilean's contract at Old Trafford expires in 2022
Monday 4 May 2020 13:46, UK
Old Trafford might be an easier environment to return to for Alexis Sanchez at the end of his season-long loan at Inter Milan, compared to the Manchester United that he left in 2019, writes Sky Sports News reporter James Cooper...
It's funny how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was criticised for saying Alexis Sanchez would be back at Manchester United this summer, on the evidence so far he may have pushed things by claiming the Chilean will prove people wrong.
But on the face of it, the story appears to be as follows: "the player on loan has a bad time on loan so returns to his parent club."
Not much would be written or said about it were it not for the fact that it's hard to build a case to suggest Sanchez isn't the worst signing of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, and possibly a timescale stretching further back than that.
The economics of the deal that brought him from Arsenal to Manchester United in January 2018 were simply eye-watering, and become even more extreme when you consider he's pulled on his red number seven shirt 45 times in that period - scoring just five goals.
An ankle injury at Inter Milan has limited his first-team opportunities there this season, with all roads seemingly pointing to the return to Old Trafford that Solskjaer has spoken about.
But rather than trot out the stats and figures, let me give you something else to mull over and, to be honest, it was probably a similar thought process that was behind his transfer in the first place, so I guess lightning could strike twice.
United right now is a very different place to be, even compared to the club that Sanchez left to join Inter on loan last season.
I know Solskjaer himself considers his players are on a long journey and the destination is still some way off, but the mood has changed for the better.
What Sanchez had to deal with first time round was the expectations that came with his signing and the money wrapped up in it, he had to contend with the manager who'd brought him to the club (Jose Mourinho) leaving, and a new boss with new ideas.
The counter-argument to all of that it that Sanchez is a seasoned professional with stints at major clubs under his belt and a fulsome international pedigree with Chile, so shouldn't a little bit of instability or the intense scrutiny he faced be things that he should have been able to shrug off?
Well for one reason or another he wasn't able to do that and it seemed he played with the full weight of United on his shoulders.
The team that's gone into the enforced break we have now is one with a bit more character and certainly more characters, players are prepared to take risks and there's a collective desire to what's being done at either end of the pitch.
What I'm trying to suggest is it might be an easier environment for Sanchez to return to, his talent and experience would certainly be of benefit to younger players coming through and when it comes to the spotlight, that has moved on to the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.
Sanchez still has two years left on his United contract but it might be with no real serious appetite from any of Europe's big hitters to come up with a deal to tempt him, the player and the club have to come to some mutual decision to try to make the best of it and to simply try again.
That doesn't mean United, ideally, wouldn't like him off the books, his loan stint in Italy was designed to prompt interest in the 31-year-old as much as it was to give him first-team football.
If it hasn't worked, for whatever reason, persisting under new circumstances would certainly be less of a brutal financial hit than giving up on it.
There still remains that enticing factor of rediscovering the Sanchez that proved his ability with a record of almost a goal every two games during his four years at Arsenal.
Solskjaer seems prepared to give that a try.
If money is the first thing that springs to mind when one considers the United career of Sanchez, it's also a key factor in how the club approaches life without football in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
The commercial wealth is designed to provide United as a club with firm foundations, something we've witnessed in the last two transfer windows with big spending on a quartet of players who, while providing instant impacts, were also identified as long-term acquisitions.
The very same wealth allowed United to compensate fans in Austria who didn't get to see their team play, that added up to £250,000 with ticket refunds on top of that, and when added to a willingness to reimburse supporters if the season is scrapped, plus the £1m it will cost to pay casual staff and money for foodbanks in Manchester, the club has been very much on the front foot.
What happens from now on is a matter for discussions, no longer inside the walls of Old Trafford, but on conference calls as the current situation dictates for most major businesses.
United are actively looking at how they can help the NHS in a meaningful and useful way and are talking to health service chiefs about that, they're also examining options when it comes to salaries across the club but no decisions have yet been reached on either issue.
So what about dealing with the current cabin fever that affects the majority of people, not just involved in football but across the world?
Like many clubs right now, United have identified communication as a vital aspect in dealing with a game on hold and that communication stretches right across the organisation from the Premier League stars to the families of youngsters in the academy and everyone in between.
What that means is phonecalls, WhatsApp groups and FaceTime sessions with an emphasis on being there for everyone - whether that be the competitiveness of a training pod involving home-based first team players or a quiz for teenagers.