Alexis Sanchez about to prove Manchester United were right to let Anthony Martial leave?
Back in January, Manchester United shocked the footballing world by prising Alexis Sanchez away from Arsenal; snatching the Chilean's signature right from under Manchester City's noses.
I think it's fair to say that, during his first six months at Old Trafford, the fans probably expected better. Sure, we've seen a smattering of his immense ability, particularly in the game at The Etihad against Pep Guardiola's side, but he's been seriously lacking in consistency.
Despite that, Jose Mourinho's faith in his new #7 hasn't wavered. The 29-year-old often remaining as the first name on the team-sheet. We all know how much the self-proclaimed Special One loves the ready-made individual rather than the up-and-coming talent; that's where Anthony Martial comes in.
The Frenchman's time on the bench has increased tenfold since the former Gunner burst onto the scene. I mean, surely everyone expected this to happen, given they play in the same position? Anyway, there were calls for Sanchez to be benched, rightly or wrongly - in my opinion, it's the former.
We're entering a huge twelve months in both players' careers. For one, it's stand up and be counted. If Sanchez doesn't have a good season, it's not just his head who'll be firmly on the chopping block. Whereas in Martial's case, he has a decision to make. Does he fight for his place? Or does he opt to switch Old Trafford for pastures new? Whatever happens, the ball is certainly in both their courts, but it's the former FC Barcelona man who continues to hold all the aces...
Let's start with pre-season. United's best individual performance on the tour to this point was Sanchez against AC Milan. Surprisingly, though, he was given the nod as the starting striker. The hard-working attacker put in a real shift for his team; leading from the front, setting an extremely positive example. It was Sanchez who opened the scoring against the Serie A giants, too, with a deft finish following an exquisite ball from Juan Mata.
Yes, it's only pre-season, but it was a performance filled with promise against an excellent AC Milan side. The catalyst to the success? For me, it's the fact that this summer was Sanchez's first summer off in a decade. Burnout is a real thing in the modern-day game, Chile missing out on the World Cup finals could well have been a blessing in disguise for United.
Then, you take a look at Martial. Once again, the Frenchman is in Mourinho's bad-books. Apparently, the 22-year-old was due to return to the Red Devils' tour after his child's birth. This player-manager combination have previous, honestly, who knows who is right and who is wrong in this situation...?
It looks as though United want to keep Martial, whereas the manager wants to bin off an unhappy player. The argument makes sense for both sides. Mourinho will get his way, though. If he doesn't, you can bet he'll drag Mr Edward Woodward down with him; hence why the former AS Monaco man will likely depart sooner rather than later.
Whatever the case may be, with less than two weeks until the Premier League kick-off, it looks as though Sanchez will remain the first-choice left-winger, with Martial either wallowing away on the bench or jetting off elsewhere. Sanchez has made a promising start to the summer, but he has to continue in that mindset for the foreseeable future. After an average half-year, many tend to forget what a world-class player he is, I wouldn't bet against him proving the doubters wrong and firing his new team to glory.