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Alexis at the Etihad Stadium

Opinion: Alexis is starting to show his best form

At full-time at the Etihad Stadium, as United’s jubilant players headed towards the 2,800 away fans chorusing in joy at the remarkable comeback win over Manchester City, there was one man missing.

Alexis Sanchez had been substituted in the 82nd minute, but not before making his mark on one of the most astounding derbies in living memory.
United were not short of heroes last Saturday, and Paul Pogba and Chris Smalling quite understandably took the lion’s share of the headlines due to their dramatic goals, but the Chilean superstar was the decisive force behind the Reds’ second-half salvation drive.
Even better, his performance arrived after a very impressive display against Swansea City the week before, when he provided an assist for Romelu Lukaku and an accomplished goal of his own, in a 2-0 victory.

Goals: City 2 United 3Video

The signs are that Alexis is growing increasingly accustomed to life at Manchester United after a somewhat quiet start, and that will be music to the ears of Jose Mourinho, his team-mates and all the Reds around the world who were thrilled the club secured his services in January.
Attacking players like Alexis were needed to drag United out of a hole when City were 2-0 up at the Etihad, something the Reds boss alluded to after the match.
“I needed more from my wingers,”
said Mourinho.
“I wanted them to come inside and give more solutions to our midfielders.”
And how Alexis responded. First, he wriggled away from Nicolas Otamendi on the right flank, bombed inside, and floated a pinpoint cross onto the chest of Ander Herrera. The Basque midfielder’s outrageous chested pass fed Paul Pogba, whose composed finish halved the deficit.
Alexis on the ball during the Manchester derby
Alexis's energy and creativity helped to drag United back into the derby.
Next, Alexis popped up on the left, in a deeper position, and was found by Pogba. The Frenchman continued his run forward and headed into the box, where Alexis found him with another delightful aerial pass. 2-2.
Our new no.7 wasn’t finished there. Again on the left, he chased and harried City right-back Danilo to win the free-kick that led to United’s winner, and hooked in the cross that then gave Smalling his chance to fire home. As he departed, to be replaced by Marcus Rashford, Pogba and Lingard both congratulated him on what they clearly recognised as a notable effort.

Alexis takes a breatherVideo

It means all of United’s last five goals have involved Sanchez: he’s scored one, assisted three, and instigated the other. 
Even more enticingly, the signs are that his relationship with his team-mates is growing at a rapid rate. Very early on in his United career, he seemed to dovetail well with Romelu Lukaku, and now Paul Pogba seems to be growing attuned to the former Arsenal man’s unique and speedy way of thinking.
When I spoke to Paddy Crerand soon after Alexis arrived, the 1968 European Cup winner said he believed the Chilean’s ultimate position would be a central one, just behind the striker. But what Saturday seemed to underline was that the January signing is most dangerous when given licence to roam and cause confusion all over the pitch.
United legend Paddy Crerand says

"When you have players like Alexis and Pogba, you’re thinking about winning the league next season. They’ll get to know each other better as they go on."

With his energy off the ball, his quick-thinking when in possession, and his dazzling speed and skill over the first few yards, it was only a matter of time before he rediscovered the devastating form that made him one of world football’s most coveted players.
Now that form is starting to reveal itself on a regular basis – and against the toughest opposition in the Premier League – all United have to do is keep letting this diminutive one-man wrecking ball loose. 

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