Even Ole Can’t Rejuvinate The Timorous Lukaku and Sanchez
February 14, 2019
Manchester United have been a side reborn since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over ten weeks ago.
At the back, United look more resolute and confident in their defensive play with Victor Lindelof becoming a man mountain since the Norweigan’s appointment, while in midfield Nemanja Matic’s sluggishness seems to have dissipated, Ander Herrera is back to his terrier-like best, and Paul Pogba is finally starting to look like the world-class midfielder everyone thought he could be.
Going forward Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford have all taken their game to another level, however, there are two very sore thumbs that still stick out: Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku.
In Lukaku and Sanchez, the Old Trafford faithful see two individuals who have very much failed to replicate the quality they once showcased during their respective times at Everton and Arsenal, and right now, not only are they not good enough to start, but they’re not even impacting games from the bench. The dream situation would be to cash in on the two in the summer window and then re-build the squad accordingly.
It’s time to look further into the serious situation of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku…
The Alexis Sanchez conundrum
When the news of Alexis Sanchez moving from Arsenal to Manchester United became official, pundits and fans alike were expecting an instant impact from the Chilean, something that was witnessed when Robin Van Persie made the same move in the summer of 2012. However, it’s not turned out that way at all.
The same player who was amongst the Premier League’s best when playing for Arsenal is now showing that the burst of pace and his ability to dribble past two or three players is fading away at a rate of knots. Indeed, there have been no redeeming features of his play at all; no spectacular finishes that we saw so often at Arsenal, no tireless running, no intricate through balls. The fact that he was bought by the board and not by Mourinho wouldn’t have helped his cause seeing as United’s style of player doesn’t suit him, but that’s no excuse for him being this bad.
Maybe he signed a few years too late purely because the side were missing a creator and a goal-scorer after both Angel Di Maria and Van Persie went in July 2015. During that summer, it was more than clear that United were in need of a proven attacker that could take the game by the scruff of the neck, but in came Martial and Memphis Depay, two youngsters that had very little experience and were heavily relied upon.
But in the here and now, Sanchez is so far behind the current attacking trio that he’s not even close to breaking into the starting XI – Tuesday night was massive evidence of that. With the game poised at 0-0, his introduction at half time was the chance to prove the doubters wrong but all he did was prove them right.
United can’t keep paying £400k/500k a week to a guy that sits on the bench. Imagine the quality of centre back and winger that United could bring in with that.
Romelu Lukaku running out of excuses
The story of Romelu Lukaku’s time at Old Trafford so far hasn’t been as bleak as Sanchez’s. In fact, the Belgian’s debut season was actually encouraging. Of course, the price tag of £75million was a lot, but it looked for the large part that United’s issues in front of goal had gone away and they now had a number nine who could lead the line properly.
But his lack of intelligence, awful first touch and incapability to help the side defensively soon became apparent, and they’re just three of the reasons why he’s spent so much time on the bench over the last few months. Even under Mourinho, the Belgian international had a number of embarrassing moments when he proved to the relentless critics that he can’t shoot with his weaker foot and he has no actual chemistry with his team-mates.
Over the last 10 years, United have had the likes of Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney to lead the line and attack; complete and established forwards that have the competence and the presence to affect the side’s play when required. Looking at those strikers and then at Lukaku, it is more than clear that the latter is a limited player and an ineffective target man.
The club should not be ashamed or embarrassed to offload Lukaku, and he can be effective in a different side, but he simply does not suit United’s style of play. Given the number of players who’ve come and gone since the Sir Alex Ferguson era, it wouldn’t hurt to get rid of another expensive flop.
Who should United bring in to replace the duo?
If the hopeful talks of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku being sold in the summer come true, the club will potentially be looking at receiving £50-£60million whilst saving over £600k a week on wages. This amount of money can be then utilised effectively and positively, where a proven centre-back, a back-up striker and an experienced right-winger could come in. If it’s all planned smartly.
Focusing on the right-wing department, the main targets seem to be between Hirving Lozano, Leon Bailey and Nicolas Pepe, three young, up and coming talents that are on the rise and are having a really good season for their respective teams. If either one of those were to come to Old Trafford in the summer, you would be looking at a winger who is direct, skilful and filled with bags of pace.
At centre forward, it is up to whoever becomes the long-term manager of the club, whether they want to develop and keep Rashford as a regular starter in the team or find someone who is more proven and reliable. If it’s the former, going for a player like Edin Dzeko or Mario Mandzukic as a back-up striker may be ideal, someone who can be regarded as a super sub.
Overall, the board and Ed Woodward have proven in many transfer windows over the years that they have no actual planning when it comes to recruiting and scouting players. So, a director of football is needed soon rather than later to help Manchester United to meet the standards they once had on and off the pitch as well as to regain control of how the money is spent on transfers.
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Author: Asif Norat
Asif is a Man United through the good and bad, and a Premier League and La Liga expert who's always on the lookout for young and rising talents, no matter which league they play in. Working on football podcasts here and there, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org