The striker who earns R9.1m a week and can’t score a goal
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says there are only so many pep talks he can give to Sanchez
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has insisted Alexis Sanchez is far from finished and believes the floodgates will open for the crisis-torn Manchester United striker if only he can deliver a big goal for the club. Likening the struggle to get Sanchez to perform to trying to squeeze tomato sauce out of a bottle, Solskjaer is confident the goals will start pouring provided the Chilean can first conjure a breakthrough moment.
Sanchez has endured a calamitous first 13 months at United since his move from Arsenal amid fears his best days are over and will be under renewed pressure to step up now that Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard – two-thirds of Solskjaer’s first choice attack – have been ruled out for up to three weeks through injury.
Solskjaer – having admitted after Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League that the player “needs to find himself” – said there were only so many pep talks he could give.
But United’s caretaker manager is hopeful a goal will finally serve as a springboard for the 30-year-old, who admitted in an interview with the BBC over the weekend that his form “worries” him and that there is “no time to lose” and that “a player like me has to show it right now”.
“He’s very talented but, of course, there’s only so many things you can sit down and talk about and tweak,” Solskjaer said.
“If he could just get that goal I’m sure that would release his confidence. That’s what it’s about when you go through periods when you don’t perform up to your standard because we know there is a very good player there.”
Solskjaer added: “You have that bottle of ketchup when it never comes out, but when it suddenly comes there’s loads of it. When it comes I’m sure he’ll be fine.
“He’s a man of 30, but he can still play for many, many years. He’s been here for a year, I’ve been here for two months with him, and he’s been injured for the first part of it, so it’s unfair to just expect him to be at the top straight away. I’m sure we’ll see the best of him before the end of the season.”
Sanchez said he had not lost faith in his ability but admitted the clock was ticking for him at United. “I think a player like me has to show it right now,” he said. “There is no time [to lose]. It worries me. I would like to have brought more joy to the club. I believe in what I am because it’s game over for a footballer who no longer believes in his ability but at the same time I’m hard on myself too.
“I’m a player that, if I’m not in contact with the ball, I lose that spark, and sometimes I want to play in every game. You’re in, you’re out, and I’m used to playing. It’s not an excuse because if I go on for 10, 20 minutes, I have to perform because that’s what I’m here for – to make a difference.”
The scrutiny on Sanchez – who has scored just twice this season and has only five goals in 34 appearances for United – has been amplified by his status as the Premier League’s highest paid player on an eye-watering £500,000 (R9.1m) a week. That will make it very difficult for United to offload the player – unless both parties are prepared to make huge compromises – but Solskjaer is adamant he needs a fit and in form Sanchez, not least with Martial and Lingard due to miss a crucial run of fixtures that could define the season.
“We need every player to perform to the best level,” Solskjaer said. “We are challenging to be top four, challenging against very good teams so you need the players to step up now and you expect that at Manchester United at the end of the season.
“The players have had this little setback with the PSG game, maybe a reality check. There are quite a few heads where their pride has been hurt.”
The PSG game was Solskjaer’s first taste of defeat in 12 matches in temporary charge. But the Norwegian acknowledged that the next few weeks without Lingard and Martial, when United also face Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Southampton in the Premier League and the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie away to PSG, could provide the biggest test yet of his managerial credentials.
“It might be [the biggest challenge],” Solskjaer said. “Then again we beat Arsenal in the last cup round without Anthony and Rashy [Marcus Rashford]. Now we’re without Anthony and Jesse. I’m sure we’ll conjure up something.”
Sanchez scored against Arsenal and Romelu Lukaku provided two assists and Solskjaer is hopeful that the Belgium striker will also seize the moment. “Rom gives us something else from Jesse and Anthony so don’t worry, he’s made an impact before,” Solskjaer said.
– © The Daily Telegraph