By 90Min
February 25, 2019

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an important decision to make when Juan Mata pulled up in the 25th minute of Sunday's huge clash with Liverpool.

Jesse Lingard or Alexis Sanchez?

Lingard is United through and through after first being picked up by the club at the age of seven. He has a reputation for important goals and performing in the big games, while he knows more than most what it means to play against Liverpool.

Sanchez, meanwhile, earns a reported £500,000-per-week after bonuses and image rights payments, joined the club in one of the most high profile transfers in Premier League history, and had been arguably one of English football's best foreign imports during his Arsenal days.

Lingard, it must said, had been rushed back to fitness after suffering an injury during the defeat to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month He was ruled out for 'two or three weeks' at the time but was back in contention within just 12 days. And yet Solskjaer still chose him over Sanchez.

As it happened, Lingard was not ready to return. Having just forced Alisson into a decisive intervention after beating the offside trap to go one on one with the goalkeeper, the England international was unable to continue. His appearance lasted just 18 minutes.

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At that moment, Sanchez came on instead. It became clear that Lingard was simply not ready to be back playing so soon. So what does his appearance ahead of Sanchez say about what Solskjaer thinks of the Chilean and whether he actually has a future at the club?

It is no secret that Sanchez has underperformed since his move from Arsenal. He scored 30 goals in his final full season with the Gunners, but has scored just five in 13 months at United. There is no obvious reason for his fall from grace and the player at least appeared to work hard in terms of his running, yet his impact in terms of actually hurting Liverpool was minimal.

Confidence is so low that the quality is just not there.

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Solskjaer recently compared Sanchez to a bottle of ketchup. You might be holding the bottle upside down waiting for something to come out for an absolute age, only to then find it all rushes out at once. It's a cute analogy, but the reality is that if you had to wait 13 months and counting for ketchup you'd have long ago swapped it for a different sauce.

That Solskjaer preferred a half fit Lingard over Sanchez is perhaps telling. The interim United boss, who looks increasingly likely to land the job on a permanent basis, would rather see younger, hungrier and in-form players out on the pitch. 

He has nothing to gain in waiting for Sanchez and Sunday seemed to show more than ever that the United boss doesn't fancy him. And this is a manager who has rediscovered the best in Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.

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In that case, there is no point keeping Sanchez around. Unfortunately, United's next issue will be successfully offloading a player contracted until 2022 on wages few other clubs can match.

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