Wednesday 23 January 2019

Alexis Sanchez showing signs of coming to the party

Manchester United's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester United's Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez. Photo: Getty Images

James Ducker

This was not just a big night for Paul Pogba, it felt like a breakthrough moment for Jose Mourinho's other hugely high-profile signing at Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez.

Amid the chaos and excitement of a frenzied evening, when United halted Manchester City's title party, Sanchez's glittering contribution almost felt in danger of being overlooked by Pogba's transformation from the game's pauper to prince.

It was only three weeks earlier that Sanchez and Pogba were sitting glumly on the substitutes' bench at Old Trafford as United beat Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup, and the pair's troubles when played together had intensified debate about whether Mourinho could accommodate them in the same team.

The answer to that came during a coruscating 16-minute spell in the second half on Saturday.

Sanchez (right) underlined why United had been so intent on stealing the Chilean from City's grasp with a pair of assists, including the free-kick from which Chris Smalling volleyed home the winner, and Pogba lived up to his £89m billing - the France midfielder hell-bent on shaping the game to his will en route to scoring twice.

It was interesting to listen to Pogba talking with Thierry Henry on Sky Sports afterwards and explaining how the runs for his two goals - first racing on to Ander Herrera's chest-down from Sanchez's pass, then surging through City's defence to head home Sanchez's exquisite ball - were largely a consequence of work done with Michael Carrick.

The veteran England midfielder will quit playing at the end of the season to join Mourinho's backroom staff but he already appears to be making an impact as a coach.

"I give credit to Michael because after every game he shows me the video and says to make those runs," Pogba said."He's someone who's helped me a lot.

"Every time after training he says, 'Come, look at this run, you can kill because nobody can stop you'."

Pogba's first-half display had done little to quell opinion that he wanted out of Old Trafford, a suspicion thrust into the public domain by Pep Guardiola on Friday when the City manager claimed he had been offered the midfielder and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January by the pair's agent, Mino Raiola.

Guardiola was sticking to his story following the derby after Raiola, who did not deny offering City the players, insisted he had not spoken with the Catalan. "I trust in my people," Guardiola said.

Perhaps Mourinho did not want to detract attention from the stunning fightback but it was still a surprise to see him resist hitting back at Guardiola over his revelation.

"I often make mistakes so no problem," Mourinho said, when asked if the City manager crossed a line.

"I don't even think about it. We know Guardiola and Mino, the relationship is not the best, so it is normal that sometimes they can come with a little touch on each other but I was not worried about it, I was not upset by it."

Irish Independent

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