There will be many fascinating clashes, battles and important aspects to the game when Manchester United host Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday lunch – but we feel that the performance and form of one player is crucial to Manchester United’s chances of beating their fierce rivals and take what would be a crucial three points in the race for second place in the Premier League table.
Since his January move from Arsenal, Sanchez has been largely uninspiring in Manchester United uniform – scoring just two goals – against Yeovil in the FA Cup and a rebound from a missed penalty against Huddersfield. But of even more concern has been his lack of effect in the United team – and indeed, he has been one of the main culprits in the break down of United attacks – he, amazingly for a player of his calibre, gave the ball away 34 times in their come-from-behind victory at Crystal Palace on Monday night.
Whilst it clearly does take time to settle in following a move, Sanchez was very much expected to hit the ground running for United – having made well over 100 Premier League appearances for Arsenal, so being very used to the blood and thunder of EPL games – and was match fit having played 19 games of the current season and scoring 7 goals for the Gunners before his switch to Old Trafford.
Sanchez was seen by many to be the missing piece in the United jigsaw puzzle – a flair attacking player with an eye for an assist as well as one for goal, and provide the quality link between a richly talented midfield corps and Romelu Lukaku, who has shouldered the Manchester United attack well despite criticism from some quarters.
Now, in what is without doubt Manchester United’s biggest Premier League game of the season, and with United boss Jose Mourinho likely to stick with the Chilean superstar, Sanchez must show the form and quality he is known to have to help United beat Liverpool and take three huge points. Sanchez can run an unsteady Liverpool defence ragged and prove difficult to pick up, finding those holes between midfield and attack that will inevitably appear if United look to break quickly on a fluid Liverpool attack. But, as evidenced on Monday at Selhurst Park, his first touch must improve hugely, his weight and accuracy of passing must reflect his true talent, and he must be brave and energetic in what will his biggest test to date in a Manchester United shirt which, if he fails, could well mean Mourinho has to bench him for the Sevilla Champions League game next week.
It will be fascinating to watch and, we hope for Manchester United’s sake, we see the real Alexis Sanchez as opposed to the shadow of his usual self we have seen in recent weeks.