Manchester United’s move for Alexis Sanchez promised so much. We hoped at the time he may provide a Robin van Persie type impact and catapult the team into title contention.
Instead the transfer has gone down as a colossal failure, one which in terms of expense, is still costing the club millions of pounds.
Where the club deserve credit, is using the Sanchez deal as a new start, and using it as a ‘reality check’ moment.
In the years since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, United have chased big names.
From the first summer’s failed pursuit of Cesc Fabregas and Gareth Bale, to the club record move for Angel di Maria.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Radamel Falcao and then Sanchez were all instances of United trying to find short term success by chasing big names.
It hasn’t worked, and Sanchez appeared to be the last straw.
It was a deal of great excess. While there was no transfer fee, the wages being paid to Sanchez are far too high, and look obscene in this financial climate. United finally said enough was enough.
United could not simply carry on pouring big money into mercenary type players, while falling further and further away from contention.
A decision was taken last summer for which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit, to focus on players who genuinely want to play for the club.
He told The Telegraph: “We’ve got to do due diligence – character of players, quality of players – that are the right fit into this squad.”
There were no quick fixes, instead United are looking forward at potential, with the likes of deals for Alexis Sanchez, now 31, seen as poor investments.
United were right to recognise the club are too far behind our competitors at the top of the Premier League to expect one or two big names to make the difference. And then attracting the very best became problematic too.
An overhaul in approach was needed, and this meant outgoings too. Players who didn’t want to be at the club like Romelu Lukaku were sold.
There has been a real focus on development, and building for the future, with players like Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams stepping up.
The club website note that United have the youngest average age of all teams in the Premier League this season, at just 24.8.
Right now there are positive signs, green shoots, that United are getting back on track and have a sense of direction.
Whether it is successful long-term remains to be seen, but it is a refreshing change of direction which should help the club avoid a financial disaster of continuing to throw excess money at so-called superstars on the decline.
If Sanchez had come in and been a short term success, United wouldn’t be on this path. The policy likely would have continued.
The club have done well to recognise the failings and try a new approach.
United have turned a negative experience on Sanchez into a positive and exciting new era, where hopefully success is finally around the corner, and even if it does not bring immediate results, the club will be healthier for it regardless.
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