Alexis Sanchez and the miseries of Manchester United – how the Chilean’s transfer has impacted the club


Sir Alex Ferguson, it was said wasn’t prepared to sell a “virus” to one of Manchester United’s foreign rivals but it would appear that those who came after him didn’t hesitate to buy one from a domestic competitor. Tchijioke ben-Chima discusses why Alexis Sanchez move to Manchester United has had a lasting impact on the club this season.

As it has turned out, the club’s signing of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal F.C. in the winter window of the 2017/18 season has well and truly proven to be a case of one of the worst kind of virulent influenza of a player transfer. More will yet be written about what has turned out to be a season of miseries for Manchester United which on Sunday culminated in an unprecedented humiliation, on home soil for that matter, at the hands of an already relegated Cardiff City, but the post-mortem analysis of United’s descent into footballing infamy must surely have as its ontogenesis, a certain piece of transfer business gone awry…

It will definitely be a daunting task to make a proper inquest into what has turned out to be a roller-coaster campaign which for Manchester United began with an ominous pre-season, followed by a discordant and rancorous first half with a clearly frustrated and frustrating Jose Mourinho in charge.

The relief of his sacking and sheer ecstasy of the new caretaker manager’s first few months in the dugout only served as an interlude which preceded the inexplicable misery that followed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as full-time manager. But for those with a measure of prescience, the answer will surely be found in a curious convergence of circumstances which caused a rift amongst the players, obliterated team unity and quite clearly took away their fighting spirit.

Football stats can only partly portray the extent of the disaster that was for Manchester United a doomed 2018/19 premier league season and pundits may not be inclined to look beyond the numbers. It will take more than a cold analysis of data sets and algorithms to understand that the genesis of United’s downfall inexorably points to the Alexis Sanchez signing and its unanticipated aftermaths, not least in probing the unfathomable depths of human ego and jealousies.

In order to unravel the mystery of United’s very poor season, one must not conveniently forget that in spite of the glamour and media glitz that surrounds today’s footballers, they are still human, subject also to base instincts and primal passions such as envy, greed and petty rivalries.

His colleagues having seen Ed Woodward fork out astronomical sums as salary for a woeful Sanchez such as they themselves, better performers than him have not received, probably sought to press home their grievances by contriving to serve up the type of insipid, lethargic and soulless performances that have mostly characterized their season.

When Manchester United hijacked Alexis Sanchez’s impending move to their cross-city rival, it was seen as a transfer coup. Urged on by Jose Mourinho, the arch proponent of big money signings, Ed Woodward in his mad dash for quick fame fell victim to a weird piece of transfer business.

The humongous sums he agreed to as Sanchez’s wages were eye-boggling by themselves, quite clearly eliciting envy and jealousy among his team members. Considering also that the player has been a monumental flop so far made the situation, from his teammates’ point of view, even more unacceptable. It is this that they have latched upon to hold the club by the scruff of the neck while precipitating the worst slump that United has seen in nearly half a century.

Ed Woodward
Manchester United’s Executive Vice-Chairman /

From an ethical perspective it is akin to treason for players to willfully down tools and shirk the contractual obligations and commitment to optimum on-field performance, but it also illustrative of the lack of control and absence of a strong directive force within the club structure. Manchester United has in effect become for them a private circus show, a stage for personal idiosyncrasy.

Alexis Sanchez’s failure to live up to his billing and his disappointing output so far also probably led Mr. Woodward to adopt a hardline attitude in contract re-negotiations and to his refusal to sanction similar financial outlays for the other players. This conflict has apparently resulted to the players downing tools. Such is the scale of the chaotic impasse that one of United’s key player, Ander Herrera rejected a new contract and will leave for free this summer, probably to be followed by other key players.

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The signing of Alexis Sanchez and the subsequent misery and heartbreak it brought to the club, staff and supporters alike has turned out to be a signature failing of The Woodward Gambit, a glaring indictment of the folly of pursuing success by engaging in overly munificent transfer dealings. It has moreover become anomie of the uncoordinated management of the club and reinforces the urgency of a revamp of the structure of Manchester United’s football policy