Alexis Sanchez' Chile form offers route for Manchester United redemption
Redemption for Sanchez is not impossible.
There are few certainties for Manchester United fans currently. The club is off the back of a pathetic season which has left even the most optimistic supporters stuck between exasperation and figuring out whether to simply emotionally detach themselves from their team, and the summer has been one of speculation over whether their best player will depart for pastures new.
One certainty though is that most supporters of the club would like to see Alexis Sanchez gone from Old Trafford. The former Arsenal forward signed for the club in January 2018 in a swap deal which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move in the opposite direction.
His signing raised some eyebrows, most notably because a lot of people felt that there were bigger and more worrying gaps in the United squad that required filling in a more urgent fashion.
Attacking is not this Manchester United team's problem. Defending is. Adding another forward to a frontline containing Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Romelu Lukaku and others seemed a peculiar choice, and it has played out that way.
From the moment he first stepped onto the pitch as a United player, Sanchez has struggled enormously.
Once one of the sharpest players at Udinese, Barcelona and Arsenal - always one step and one thought ahead of the opposition - Sanchez has been sluggish and out of sync at Manchester United.
Once clinical, his eye for a shot has deserted him entirely, with a crisis of confidence seeing him more inclined to pass the ball when presented with an opportunity rather than take it.
His situation at the club has extenuating circumstances, it must be said. Injuries have wracked up in a way that they haven't done so in the past, interrupting any sort of momentum he may have built up at the club.
The club itself is probably the most glaring circumstance though.
Manchester United is a mess right now. Almost all decisions appear questionable, and the culture at the club is such that each player brought in to improve the team appears to notably reduce in quality as time goes by.
This is not an excuse for Sanchez, but it is not unreasonable to say that any player would struggle to perform for Manchester United at this moment in time.
At a time when fans would be happy to see the back of any or all of Paul Pogba, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Fred, Matteo Darmian and Sanchez himself, it would be easy to assume that his long-term future with the club does not look positive. But that doesn't have to be the case.
For all of his ails at club level, Sanchez does have something of a sanctuary at international level. While he is the punchline for jokes at Manchester United, he remains a respected leader for Chile and someone that his national team can rely upon.
He has two goals in his last 27 appearances for Manchester United, but has already scored that many in his nation's first two Copa America matches this summer.
The 30-year-old has always felt more at home in the national team setup than at club level, with the Chile squad clearly closely bonded after so much success on the international stage in recent years.
"He’s had bad fortune because Manchester United have had problems for a while, so he does not have the structure he has here. He has also had injuries, he’s lacked consistency, he has lacked continuity," said his manager Reinaldo Rueda to the Evening Standard when asked why Sanchez performs better at international level.
That consistency and continuity is key for Sanchez. He is not a bad player, rather one that often seems to have forgotten what makes him so good. His high wages will make it a challenge for Manchester United to sell him this summer, but there is some hope. He is in good form right now, and is playing in a tournament that he and his teammates know how to win.
If he can return for pre-season feeling fit, confident and in-form, there's no reason he can't stake a claim for himself as the club's first choice striker and resurrect a club career that, right now, is in danger of becoming a sorry tale.