IF OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER thought the carrot of Alexis Sanchez returning in the summer might placate Manchester United fans he was sadly mistaken.
As he prepared for the daunting task of overturning a 3-1 deficit against neighbours City in the Carabao Cup semi-final, a defiant Solskjaer proclaimed: “Alexis will come back in the summer and will prove you all wrong.”
This from a man who couldn’t wait to get the former Arsenal star out the door.
Nobody wanted to buy the Chilean, nobody could afford his £505,000 a week wages and so United had to ship him out on loan to Inter and still stump up around 60 per cent of his wages.
The injury plagued ‘goalscorer’ has since played 214 minutes in Serie A scoring once to go with his five goals in 18 forgettable months at United.
For many United fans he represented the wrong way the club were going with big names, on big money arriving at Old Trafford and then the manager trying to fit them into the team.
Solskjaer was asked yesterday whether the acquisition of Sanchez two years ago this month had actually scared the club off similar mid-season deals.
He said: “No, I wouldn’t think so. It’s not many teams that would let their best players go in January.
“Alexis is one of the top, top players, he was one of the top players at Arsenal, we signed a good player there and he has had so many injuries he’s been unlucky, you can’t vouch for all those injuries either.”
They might have signed a top player, but there was certainly no evidence of one when he pulled a United shirt on.
It would be easy to think that Sanchez came for the cash.
It was a battle between United and City. There was no fee, although Henrik Mkhitaryan did go the other way.
That is why the wages could be so high, but when the figures got silly even City pulled out.
They did not want the deal upsetting their wage structure, which is exactly what he did at Old Trafford with every player subsequently comparing their worth to his when it came to renewing contracts.
After all, last summer Solskjaer said “you’ll be surprised how many games he will play for us this season” and he was gone within a week.
What wasn’t surprising yesterday were the responses to a quick question on Twitter as to what United fans might think about his return.
Fair to say they weren’t positive.
As one fan replied: ‘As long as it’s playing the piano and not football, I’m good.’
This is in response to the cringe-worthy club video announcing his arrival from Arsenal which had him sat playing a piano.
Had he been playing it like Les Dawson it would have summed up better what was to come.
Neither Sanchez but more importantly Romelu Lukaku were replaced in the summer and that is what United a paying for now.
PREDICTED MAN UTD LINE-UP
(4-2-3-1) De Gea – Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw – Fred, Matic – Mata, Pereira, James – Martial.
Sanchez was no loss but while Lukaku’s career at Ole Trafford petered out there was still a 42-goal gap over two seasons to fill and Inter Milan felt the 26-year-old was worth £73million of their money.
United are now struggling with Marcus Rashford injured and teenager Mason Greenwood asked to help Anthony Martial carry the goalscoring burden.
With the clock now ticking to Friday’s transfer deadline there is no sign of that problem being addressed up front or in midfield where injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay have left them light.
The hoped for transfer of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon has collapsed with a stand-off on the player’s valuation.
Sporting wanted £68million up front and United decided he was worth £42.5million plus £8.5million in add-ons based on his success at the club.
When United co-chairman Joel Glazer looked at the figures and the player he decided it was not value for money.
Asked yesterday about fans anger over a lack of movement in the transfer market, Solskjaer was playing his usual straight bat.
He said: “We are players down with injuries so we have looked at options but we will not sign players here for the sake of just signing a player to have one more number.
“You have got to be right for the place, if it’s a loan to the summer to help us it’s still got to be someone that helps the squad that is here.
“If it’s a permanent signing it has to be someone that is in our plans for the future.”
The immediate future is a daunting trip to The Etihad to face City tonight.
As ever Solskjaer was in positive mood, pointing once more to the miracle of Paris in the Champions League last season and United’s victory at The Etihad last month as to what can be done.
He said: “We’ve got to go into the memory bank and think PSG, because we’ve done it against good teams before and gives us some hope, and the game in December of course gives us hope that we can do something there.
“It has to be a perfect performance to win with two goals against such a good team away from home.”
It most certainly does, whether he has the team to produce it is another matter..