It's an oft-repeated phrase in football: 'He's like a new signing’. Alexis Sanchez isn’t like a new signing for Manchester United because, effectively, he is still a new signing.
The Chilean was always going to need time to settle at Old Trafford after arriving mid-season in January and manager Jose Mourinho was quick to stress we would all see the best of the South American in 2018/19.
Despite the delay in him flying to the United States, Alexis is having the benefit of a rare pre-season campaign behind him and has looked the part in his two outings so far on Tour 2018, presented by Aon. A lively performer against San Jose Earthquakes, despite being on the receiving end of some rough treatment, he sparkled in the penalty shoot-out win over AC Milan.
We all know what Alexis can do, having seen him regularly inspire Arsenal and, of course, his previous work in Europe with Udinese and Barcelona. For me, he has always looked like a Manchester United player because of his sheer desire to win and determination to make positive things happen on the pitch.
Now the bedding-in process has been completed, we can rightly expect our winter window capture to hit top form. He reaches 30 in December and has the experience, wherewithal and pedigree to become an absolute superstar with the Reds. When I spoke to Marcos Rojo about him last season, the Argentinian said:
“Chileans will be following us a lot more. If you think about him being the star of Chile in the way Lionel Messi is for us, they will be watching him a lot.
“Also, it’s the same colour – the Chile and Manchester United shirts are both red. So it’s a perfect match.”
Indeed, the signing of Alexis did look the perfect match and he offered glimpses of what he can provide with some sterling performances – including a key role in the comeback win over Manchester City and his Man-of-the-Match display against Tottenham in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
We all appreciate he is a big-game player who can make the difference in the tightest of fixtures but he can also unlock packed defences with his trickery and penetration. In the absence of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku, he was deployed in a central attacking role against AC Milan and unsettled the Rossoneri’s backline throughout.
There is certainly the possibility he could partner Lukaku up front if a 3-5-2 formation is used, as he usually wreaks havoc down the middle. Otherwise, if 4-3-3 is the manager’s preferred option, his ability to operate on either flank with a licence to roam would surely see him take on the mantle as one of the club’s most dangerous weapons.
With the new sharp haircut and obvious thirst to succeed, Alexis looks capable of making a positive impact in the Premier League from the very outset.
While pre-season games are not always the best guides, there is little doubt he has been one of the main positives from the tour.
As his fellow South American Rojo said, Alexis is a star for Chile and, of course, a star of the world game. It was a shame he was unable to parade his talents and passion for his country in Russia but United can reap the benefits of the rare opportunity to recharge the batteries. Alexis looks fit, fresh and raring to go.
If he is at his peak, he can be one of the main men in 2018/19 for Jose’s side.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
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