Alexis Sánchez's last appearance for Manchester United this season may have rung a bell for United fans.
After yet another ineffective game for United, this time against relegated Huddersfield Town, the Chilean picked up an injury and was substituted. His replacement was youngster Tahith Chong, a 19-year-old who had never started a Premier League game. Chong proceeded to create several chances for United and looked a marked improvement on the man whom he had replaced.
The man who Manchester United decided to pay approximately £500,000 a week for in January 2018 to win his signature ahead of rivals Manchester City. Little would those at Old Trafford know at the time, that Sánchez would prove to be, quite probably, the worst value for money signing in Premier League history.
Sanchez arrived with much fanfare under then-manager José Mourinho, with the club infamously announcing his signing by uploading a social media video of him playing the piano at Old Trafford. Sánchez had been strongly linked with a move to Manchester City and a subsequent reunion with former manager Pep Guardiola in the summer of 2017. It would later emerge that the Red Devils gave Sánchez a contract which made him the highest paid player in the Premier League. It seemed like such a coup for United at the time, but City were simply not willing to match the wages on offer for the then 29-year-old. Their decision now looks to be a masterstroke.
With the Gunners, Sánchez had established himself as one of the very best players in the Premier League. His excellent dribbling, work-rate and eye for goal had made him one of the most feared forwards in Europe and in his last full campaign with the Gunners he scored 24 goals, being deployed as a striker on many occasions.
When the season ended at Manchester United he had mustered a paltry three goals in 18 appearances, one of which was a rebound from a penalty. Although he did score an important goal in the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, it was painfully clear that Sánchez was struggling.
It was hoped that having a full pre-season with Manchester United would help Sánchez recapture his Arsenal form. Mourinho decided to hit his customary third-season self-destruct button in pre-season and United season's consequently started horribly, losing two of their first three league games and being knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Championship side Derby County.
Sánchez now looked a spent force, putting in a series of anonymous performances. Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright famously once said of England following their loss to Iceland at Euro 2016 that it seemed like the "monsters had knicked their talent", referencing the movie Spacejam, and the same could be said of Sánchez at United. It was a mysterious decline for the Chilean as he continued to work hard on the pitch but was simply unable to make an impact.
It seemed as if Sánchez's previously excellent physical and technical attributes had vanished overnight during his move. He was once renowned for his intensity off the ball - pressing, hustling and harrying opposition defenders into making mistakes. At Manchester United he made these same actions but with different results, appearing to be a yard off the pace as teams played around him. Sánchez looked out of his depth and it was no surprise when he was dropped a month into the season.
Manchester United's campaign lurched from one disaster to the next and Mourinho was sacked in December, with the club 11 points off the top four. Ole Gunnar Solskjær was appointed as caretaker manager but it soon became clear that Sánchez was not among his first-choice attackers, with the Norwegian preferring the front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard. Sánchez scored against former side at the Emirates in the FA Cup in a 3-1 fourth-round victory. However, this would be the highlight of his season as he would fail to score for the rest of the campaign.
For all the difficulties that Sánchez was experiencing on the pitch, his exorbitant wages were causing problems off it. Paul Pogba reportedly demanded wage parity with the Chilean and the money being paid to Sánchez has also hamstrung the club in their contract negotiations with other players. They were unable to offer Ander Herrera the wages he desired to due to the large amount of money that Sanchez took up on the wage bill and the Spaniard subsequently decided not to sign a new contract and announce that he will be leaving the club.
The signing of Sánchez has become a symbol of the problems that Manchester United have created and endured since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Although he was considered to be one of the top talents in the league at the time, the wages that United gave to the Chilean were inconceivable. The club somehow didn't foresee how giving a player, particularly a player of that age, such high wages would destabilise the dressing room.
Furthermore, there is a feeling that United only signed Sánchez to stop rivals City from doing so, highlighting the short-term thinking at the club. It's easy to say in hindsight but United signed Sánchez at 29 despite knowing that the majority of players decline in quality from this age onwards. His transfer signing announcement shows how the club's obsession with big-name players and getting large social media engagement numbers seem to be at the forefront of their transfer policy rather than signing players that would fit the team. Mourinho may have been the man who wanted to bring Sánchez to Old Trafford but it is bizarre that the club sanctioned a move for him considering they already had two talented young players who played in the same position - Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
There have been reports that Inter are looking to sign the Chilean and this would come as a great relief to both the player, United and their fans. It would put an end to Sánchez's Old Trafford nightmare and close the chapter on the worst value for money transfer in Premier League history.
Source : 90min