Big things were expected of Alexis Sanchez when he joined Manchester United.
The Red Devils’ signing from Arsenal was seen as a coup, with Jose Mourinho’s side seeing off rivals Manchester City for his signature.
But since his January arrival, he has just one goal in ten appearances and hasn’t put in the level of performance expected from someone earning £500,000 every week.
We asked our friends at Football Whispers if his disappointing start could be put down to the Chilean being burnt out.
Sanchez himself admits his career at Old Trafford hasn’t gone to plan.
He asked Chile manager Reinaldo Rueda if he could sit out their games with Sweden and Denmark this international break.
“As I am self-demanding, I expected something better,” he said.
“After my arrival at United, it was hard to change everything very quickly. I even hesitated to come to Sweden.
“I had asked permission to miss these games but then I thought better and spoke with Claudio [Bravo] and told him that we should all be united.”
That sounds like someone who just wants a break from football. It would be no surprise if he was burnt out considering Sanchez hasn’t had a full summer off since 2013.
The summer of 2014 saw him join his country at the World Cup.
The Copa America took up a large chunk of Sanchez’s time in between seasons in 2015 and 2016, while last year, he was involved in the Chile squad that reached the final of the Confederations Cup in Russia.
Footballers need a break. The 29-year-old hasn’t had one. What’s more, no-one played more for Arsenal in the Premier League than him last season.
The Chilean featured in 3,224 minutes in England’s top flight. The closest Gunner to him was Nacho Monreal with 3,153.
Only those two and Cech played more than 3,000 minutes for Arsenal in the Premier League last season.
Despite that, there was talk that Arsene Wenger would rest Sanchez to give him a winter break last season.
The Daily Mail claimed the Gunners boss was worried about him becoming burnt out after such a gruelling schedule.
Despite that, the Frenchman ended up deciding against doing so, and didn’t let the Chilean have any time off.
Given he was Arsenal’s best player, that’s perhaps no surprise.
But with his busy summer schedule added to the fact that Sanchez wouldn’t get a winter break which he would do in many other European countries, he simply hasn’t stopped.
His team-mates at international level, such as Arturo Vidal, would have had a winter break, while his club colleagues would have had more time off during the summer.
Sanchez isn’t a machine, he’s a human being.
Eventually that relentless schedule was bound to catch up with him – he’s already played 2,554 minutes of club football this season for both Arsenal and United.
His post on Instagram yesterday was a massive hint to that.
It said: “I know you are psychologically and emotionally exhausted. BUT YOU HAVE TO SMILE AND CONTINUE.”
And it looks like it’s not just the physical exhaustion that’s catching up with Sanchez, but the move to United and the following struggles have also affected him mentally.
He admitted this week: “The change of club was something that was very abrupt – it was the first time I’ve changed clubs in January.
“But many things have happened in my life that are difficult.”
While it isn’t ideal to see him admitting that life at Old Trafford is difficult, there’s also a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, with Sanchez saying he’s overcome difficult situations before. It’s clear he wants to make it work.
And his relentless schedule will be over come the end of the season.
While the forward will obviously be disappointed that Chile failed to qualify for the World Cup, it could be a real blessing in disguise.
It will obviously hurt watching other national sides compete for the biggest tournament in world football, but it will give Sanchez the much-needed break he desperately needs.
And then United will get a refreshed and rejuvenated player reporting to pre-season
It’s difficult enough joining a club in the middle of the season like Sanchez has done, let alone when you’ve barely bad a break for the past four years or so.
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The Chilean will be more adapted to life in Manchester as well and he’ll be more familiar with the role Mourinho wants him to play.
It’s far too early to write him off as an Old Trafford flop.