Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images
Manchester United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said Alexis Sanchez “can only improve” after his fine performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup on Friday.
The Chilean has endured a torrid time at Old Trafford since his switch to the club in January 2018, but he was on the scoresheet against his old side in the fourth-round clash, netting the opening goal in a 3-1 win.
Solskjaer said after the game that he expects Sanchez to kick on after one of his best games in a United shirt, per Ron Walker of Sky Sports:
“It wasn’t like Alexis had an open goal, it was a great finish. Every player, the more confident you get, the more you want to get on the pitch and train and work on yourself and you trust yourself.
“He has been injured lately so it was great to see him get 65-70 minutes tonight, and he can only improve, and I think he knows that himself.”
The FA Cup Twitter account shared footage of the opening goal:
The Emirates FA Cup @EmiratesFACup
😳 | Who else but @Alexis_Sanchez? https://t.co/EliETpIppu
Squawka Football provided the numbers behind Sanchez’s performance against Arsenal:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Alexis Sanchez's game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
83% passing accuracy
3 take-ons completed
1 chance created
1 shot on target
A memorable return to his former club. 🏟 https://t.co/5k9s3jXmgf
The match was the first time Sanchez had started against Premier League opposition since Solskjaer arrived at Old Trafford, and operating with freedom alongside Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard suited the Chile international.
What made the goal sweeter for Sanchez was the fact that it came against his former club. The United No. 7 was jeered by the Emirates Stadium crowd throughout the match.
There will be hope among the Red Devils fanbase that a performance like this can kickstart his United career. His displays have been laboured when he’s previously taken the field for United, and the edge that made him such a force at Arsenal has been absent.
Opta’s Duncan Alexander put the goalscoring issues of the attacker into context:
Duncan Alexander @oilysailor
Seven of Alexis Sanchez's last 16 goals have come at the Emirates which would be good if he hadn't left Arsenal 368 days ago.
While the trio of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Lingard appear to be Solskjaer’s preferred front line, there will be chances for Sanchez in 2019. Not only have United progressed in the FA Cup, but they also remain in the UEFA Champions League and in a battle to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
After a rotten start to the campaign, United supporters are starting to believe this team is capable of salvaging something from 2018-19, with eight wins in a row secured. Sanchez may well have a similar mindset.
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