Alexis Sanchez has disrupted any fluency and rhythm in the Manchester United attack, according to Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas.
The Chile international has scored one goal and registered two assists since his January switch from Arsenal, which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move the other way in a straight swap deal, but Sanchez is yet to hit top form in his ten appearances for Jose Mourinho’s side.
Nicholas calls for Sanchez to be benched
Nicholas, who played for the Gunners for five years in the mid-1980s, believes Sanchez loses possession too often – a flaw in his game which did not go unnoticed during his time at The Emirates Stadium – and has been forced into the side to the detriment of his United teammates.
"Sanchez, at the moment, does not deserve to be in the team,” Nicholas told Sky Sports in the aftermath of the Red Devils’ Champions League exit to Sevilla. “It's too individual. He is giving the ball away too often.”
The 56-year-old pundit felt United were playing well at the start of the season, citing the good form of Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, but suggested the understanding in the team has evaporated since then.
“All of a sudden the whole team is getting squeezed to fit Sanchez in,” added Nicholas, who was also puzzled to see Marcus Rashford moved out to the right wing against Sevilla, after, “his [Rashford’s] success at the weekend [In United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool] was on the left.”
There is certainly some substance in Nicholas’ words, Sanchez having disappointed at Old Trafford thus far. The three goals he’s been involved in for United have been assists against Yeovil Town and Huddersfield Town, his sole strike a rebound from a missed penalty in a separate Huddersfield meeting.
Tactics thwarting Sanchez?
But the point of losing possession is perhaps miscued. Kevin de Bruyne – the Manchester City midfielder who could well win the Premier League Player of the Season award come the end of the campaign – has lost possession more than anyone in the division this season [per The Times' Bill Edgar].
Alexis Sanchez has played poorly so far at Man Utd but claiming he loses possession too much is not enough (or is De Bruyne having a bad season?):— Bill Edgar (@BillEdgarTimes) March 14, 2018
Most possessions lost in Premier League this season:
Kevin De Bruyne 664
Christian Eriksen 603
Alexis Sanchez 582@TimesSport
That would suggest Sanchez has been misguided in this United side and Nicholas also suggested that Mourinho might be partly responsible for the attacker’s early struggles at Old Trafford.
The pundit claimed Mourinho is “a genius” at getting individuals together and “saying 'this is the system, this is how it's going to operate.”
But he also felt the Portuguese boss’ current set-up “doesn’t seem functional,” and that “there’s no fluency and there's no rhythm to the team.”
Whatever the root cause of this problem may be and whether that lies at the feet of the player or manager, both Mourinho and Sanchez can certainly do more to get the best out of one another to improve United’s fortunes between now and the season’s end.