It is safe to say that Alexis Sanchez has endured a turbulent time at Manchester United since moving from Arsenal in January 2018. However, he has rediscovered his form in the Copa America this summer.
The Chilean scored the winner as Chile beat Ecuador 2-1 on Friday to secure qualification to the quarter-finals. The goal was his second in as many games at the Copa America in Brazil and he appears to have a renewed hunger and desire that has been lacking at United.
After his goals in the first two games, Chile lost 1-0 to Uruguay in a fight for top spot in Group C but still progressed and will face Colombia in the quarter-finals.
Should they get past that test and go on to win the tournament, it would Sanchez's third Copa America trophy. It was he who scored the winning penalty as Chile won the trophy in 2015, turning him into an instant national hero.
The forward has made five goal contributions in his last five appearances for his country. He is a talismanic presence and boasts a bond with the fans that seemingly cannot be broken.
"He has the motivation, affection and some relationships that he has in the national team and maybe he didn't have them in Manchester," Chile boss Reinaldo Rueda claimed in an interview, via Goal, after victory over Ecuador.
"He arrived at a difficult, inopportune moment, perhaps in the most unbalanced United in recent years."
Rueda is inarguably correct in saying that the player had arrived at an unbalanced Manchester United and that he is treated with more love with Chile. However, it would be wrong to justify his woeful time at United by simply putting it down to 'love'.
Firstly, the tactics employed by Man United are vastly different to that of Chile's.
Rueda employs a 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 formation, where Sanchez plays wide on the left wing and is allowed to drift to a more central role. In contrast, the Chilean supposedly plays on the left wing for Man United but he is constantly operating so far away from the opposition goal, that he simply has no impact. This is because Chile play more of a possession based game than United, meaning he is able to make more penetrating runs and have a greater impact.
In Need of a Rest
It is also worth noting that Sanchez has been to countless tournaments with his country in recent years, including the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 and 2016 Copas America and the 2017 Confederations Cup. Although Sanchez is a workhorse, can all this football really be healthy for a player?
His time at United has been hampered by injuries and it is no wonder why considering his age and the lack of time off he has. It is near impossible to maintain any sort of form when he is having constant injury issues. The 'love' that Rueda speaks of has meant Sanchez is fighting through pain barriers for his country but as a result, it is having a negative impact on his club football.
In his time at Arsenal, Sanchez set the tempo with his tireless work ethic and relentless goal contributions.
However, even in his heydey at the Emirates, it wasn't all plain sailing. He had to deal with situations ranging from training ground bust ups, all the way to celebrating alone after scoring.
The key difference is, even after his feuds with teammates, he had the mental strength to not let it affect him. Instead, he would go and grab a couple of goals, like he did against Crystal Palace in December 2017. The same most certainly cannot be said in his time with the Red Devils.
After United completed the singing of Daniel James from Swansea, it makes it even harder to begin to entertain the thought that Sanchez has a future at Old Trafford. The young flying Welshman fits the criteria that Solskjaer is looking for, meanwhile, Sanchez simply put, does not.
The Chilean may very well be affected by a perceived lack of love and affection he receives at Man Utd. But the reality is that it's so much more than that. It is more a cumulation of factors from tactics, to travel and mental strength that have prevented United fans from seeing the best of their costly number seven.
If (and it's a big if) Sanchez, can use the Copa America to rediscover his club form next season, he will be an asset like few others for United.