Manchester United have come to an agreement over the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling.
The pair will continue their loans in Italy with Inter Milan and Roma, which had expired at the end of June.
While this should have been a straightforward decision, it was anything but, due to the Europa League.
UEFA rules state loan players cannot be ruled ineligible to play their parent clubs, in the same way United were able to stipulate Dean Henderson could not face them in the Premier League.
There was room for embarrassment here, if Sanchez had scored the goal to knock United out, or Chris Smalling shut United down, in a potential one-off match-up with Inter or Roma in the Europa League tournament to take place in August.
Smartly, United have found a workaround which prevents either Smalling or Sanchez playing against the club.
United announced on the club website that Smalling and Sanchez’s loans will run up until the end of the Serie A season. This runs up until August 2.
The Europa League recommences a week later, with the final set to be played on August 21.
Eurosport Italia speculate Sanchez could play in Inter’s last 16 second leg against Getafe on August 6, but that would be it.
There would be little point in blocking the loan extensions for Sanchez and Smalling for the rest of the league season. Their clubs would then have no cause to contribute towards their wages either. At least this way United save a little.
Neither player are likely to play for United again. But it is wise for United to block them damaging us in the Europa League.
There is so much on the line, a trophy and a Champions League place, it would be humiliating and disastrous if Sanchez scored a goal which cost us a trophy, and millions in television revenue, while the club are still paying half his wages.
United have made the right choice, and if not for the lockdown and season delay, we would not have had the opportunity to do so.
This is a smart move from United, and if either Sanchez or Smalling have a problem with it, being denied a chance to compete for a trophy, then this should strengthen their resolve to leave the club permanently.
Selling them should be United’s goal, to get them off the wage books, and land small fees to boost our own transfer funds. If this nudges them closer to pushing for that, then that’s another bonus.
United don’t get everything right, but this is one decision which we appear to have resolved shrewdly.
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