Saturday 19 October 2019

Solskjaer backs misfiring Sanchez to come good


French connection: Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho shakes hands with Nicolas Anelka at the Ligue 1 clash between Lille and Montpellier yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
French connection: Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho shakes hands with Nicolas Anelka at the Ligue 1 clash between Lille and Montpellier yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

James Ducker

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has insisted Alexis Sanchez is far from finished and believes the floodgates will open for the crisis-torn Manchester United striker if he can deliver a big goal for the club.

Likening the struggle to get Sanchez to perform to trying to squeeze tomato ketchup out of a bottle, Solskjaer is confident the goals will start pouring once the Chilean conjures a breakthrough moment.

Sanchez has endured a calamitous first 13 months at United since his move from Arsenal amid fears that his best days are over and will be under renewed pressure to step up now that Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard -two-thirds of Solskjaer's first-choice attack - have been ruled out for up to three weeks through injury.

Sanchez is not certain to start against Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round at Stamford Bridge tonight and Solskjaer - having admitted after Tuesday's 2-0 defeat by Paris St-Germain in the Champions League that the player "needs to find himself" - said there were only so many pep talks he could give.

But United's caretaker manager is hopeful a goal in a high-profile game of this kind will finally be a springboard for the 30-year-old, who admitted in an interview over the weekend that his form "worries" him, there is "no time to lose" and that "a player like me has to show it now".

"He's very talented but, of course, there's only so many things you can sit down and talk about and tweak," Solskjaer said.

"If he could just get that goal I'm sure that would release his confidence.

"That's what it's about when you go through periods when you don't perform up to your standard because we know there is a very good player there."

Solskjaer added: "You have that bottle of ketchup when it never comes out, but when it suddenly comes there's loads of it. When it comes I'm sure he'll be fine.

"He's a man of 30, but he can still play for many, many years.

"He's been here for a year, I've been here for two months with him, and he's been injured for the first part of it, so it's unfair to just expect him to be at the top straight away. I'm sure we'll see the best of him before the end of the season."


Sanchez said he had not lost faith in his ability but admitted that the clock was ticking for him at United.

"I think a player like me has to show it right now," he said.

"There is no time (to lose). It worries me. I would like to have brought more joy to the club.

"I believe in what I am because it's game over for a footballer who no longer believes in his ability but, at the same time, I'm hard on myself, too.

"I'm a player that, if I'm not in contact with the ball, I lose that spark, and sometimes I want to play in every game.

"You're in, you're out, and I'm used to playing. It's not an excuse because if I go on for 10 or 20 minutes, I have to perform because that's what I'm here for: to make a difference."

The scrutiny on Sanchez - who has scored just twice this season and has only five goals in 37 appearances for United - has been amplified by his status as the Premier League's highest-paid player on an eye-watering £500,000-a-week (€572,000) contract.

That will make it very difficult for United to offload him - unless both parties are prepared to make huge compromises - but Solskjaer is adamant he needs a fit and in-form Sanchez, not least with Martial and Lingard due to miss a crucial run of fixtures that could define the season.

"We need every player to perform to the best level," Solskjaer said.

"We are challenging to be top four, challenging against very good teams, so you need the players to step up now and you expect that at Manchester United at the end of the season.

"The players have had this little setback with the PSG game, maybe a reality check.

"There are quite a few heads where their pride has been hurt, but I'm sure they'll bounce back against Chelsea."

The PSG game was Solskjaer's first taste of defeat in 12 matches in temporary charge. But the Norwegian acknowledged that the next few weeks without Lingard and Martial, when United also face Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Southampton in the Premier League and the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie away to PSG, could provide the biggest test yet of his managerial credentials.

"It might be (the biggest challenge)," Solskjaer said.

"Then again, we beat Arsenal in the last cup round without Anthony and 'Rashy' (Marcus Rashford).

Now we're without Anthony and Jesse. I'm sure we'll conjure up something."

Sanchez scored against Arsenal with Romelu Lukaku providing two assists and Solskjaer is hopeful that the Belgium striker will also seize the moment.

"'Rom' gives us something else from Jesse and Anthony, so don't worry, he's made an impact before," Solskjaer said.

"I'm not going to say it (the FA Cup) is the last chance (of silverware)because we are going to go to Paris and give it a go. But the chances of going through there are slimmer than before the game.

"The FA Cup final is something we would really want to go to, so we are going to go there and try to go through." (© The Daily Telegraph)

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