The headline is classic MailOnline. Not only in its length – it’s massive, longer than most tabloid sentences – but in its content. Two large numbers, talk of footballer wages, the pointed use of SEO-friendly terms and the all-important CAPITALS. It could be used in a style guide for new starters:
‘Manchester United’s £50m problem: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be stuck with Alexis Sanchez when he returns from Inter next month… the Chilean is REFUSING to take a pay cut and has two years left on his £25m-a-year deal’
Quite apart from Sanchez not actually being on £25m a year – and thus not causing a £50m problem – unless he earns various bonuses that are impossible while he is not actually playing for Manchester United, we are left with one question: Why the f*** should he take a pay cut when he was offered that contract by Manchester United? Who among us would voluntarily slash our wages in an admission that actually, we’re not worth what we were originally offered?
Indeed, Sanchez could argue that he is absolutely worth that money. He arrived for the bonus price of precisely one Henrik Mkhitaryan on the understanding that the sizeable transfer saving would be passed on to him. United happily paid more than Manchester City were willing to offer because they wanted the excellence of one of the Premier League’s most compelling footballers. A deal was made and all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about ‘obscene’ wages cannot disguise the fact that it was United – in a previous, short-termist incarnation – that committed to those wages.
It might not fit with their new vision of youth and sustainability but United cannot whitewash such deals out of their history; they remain on the balance sheet as a reminder that mistakes can be made. Sanchez is REFUSING to see those wages slashed – and is infuriatingly reluctant to be shipped off to China or the Middle East – and he is absolutely within his rights. He is certainly within his rights this week of all weeks.
🔟 Alexis Sanchez created ten chances vs Torino on Monday night – a record in a single Serie A game this season
5⃣ On the same night, Manchester United created just half that amount as a whole vs Southampton pic.twitter.com/DMyhvur274
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 14, 2020
Sanchez might also point out that he created more chances in his first half-season at United than Marcus Rashford in a whole campaign, that he created more chances per 90 minutes than any other semi-regular United player last season, even when treated like a pariah by two managers, and that United did not lose a single game he started in 2018/19. And he started 13 games while United lost 17 so these are not unsubstantial numbers.
That does not mean that the casting of Sanchez as a flop is a mistake, but rather that this was an excellent though increasingly injury-prone player who fitted neither the tactics of Jose Mourinho nor the ethos of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He is by most accounts a socially awkward and insular character who struggled even at Arsenal, where he was absolutely indulged. At United, he was not indulged and his wages made him an incredibly easy target. His story is not his alone.
Now, after finally settling in Milan, the pressure begins via the English media to force him to accept lower wages in return for an exit that suits only his employer. ‘Man Utd set to be handed £50m problem by Alexis Sanchez decision’ was one headline that neatly sidesteps the fact that the not-£50m problem is entirely of United’s making. It’s not up to Sanchez to solve that problem.