Ole Gunnar Solskjær denies Alexis Sánchez is past his best
Manchester United manager says Chilean’s undoubted quality will be revealed in time
Alexis Sanchez of Manchester United closes down Kylian Mbappe of PSG during the Champions League defeat to the French side at Old Trafford. Photograph: Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty
FA Cup fifth round: Chelsea v Manchester United
Kick off: 7.30pm. Venue: Stamford Bridge. On TV: BBC One and Eir Sport 1.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has denied Alexis Sánchez is past his best, saying that once the Chilean scores it will be like squeezing a “bottle of ketchup” and his best form will be released.
Sánchez has struggled for most of the year since he joined Manchester United from Arsenal in January last year. He has scored only once in the league – in October – and once more for United this term, in the FA Cup fourth-round win at Arsenal. He scored only three times in the second half of last season and his touch and confidence are a continuing problem.
Yet asked if the Chilean’s best days are behind him, Solskjær was emphatic.
“He’s still a young boy. He’s a man of 30, but he can still play for many, many years. He’s been here for a year, I’ve been here for two months with him and he’s been injured for the first part of it so it’s unfair to just expect him to be at the top straight away. I’m sure we’ll see the best of him before the end of the season.
“He’s a very good player. He’s very talented, but of course there’s only so many things you can sit down and talk about and tweak. You saw against Fulham when he gets his chance – he is so sharp in and around the ball, he wins the ball, his energy.
“If he could just get that goal I’m sure that would release his confidence. That’s what it’s about when you go through periods when you don’t perform up to your standard because we know there is a very good player there. It’s one of those things.
“You know that bottle of ketchup that you squeeze when it never comes but when it suddenly comes there’s loads? I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
With Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial out for up to three weeks because of injuries suffered in the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, Sánchez has a chance to establish himself finally, starting with tonight’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea.
Solskjær wants Sánchez to make an immediate impact.
“We need every player to perform to the best level,” he said. “We are challenging to be top four, challenging against very good teams, so you need the players to step up now and you expect that at Manchester United at the end of the season.
“We always do well towards the end of the season. The players have had this little setback with the PSG game, maybe a reality check. Their pride has been hurt. I’m sure they’ll bounce back on Monday.”
Solskjær shrugged off the effects of the loss of Martial and Lingard.
“We beat Arsenal in the last cup round without Anthony and Rashy [Marcus Rashford], now we are without Anthony and Jesse. I’m sure we’ll conjure something.
“I’m not going to say it’s [the FA Cup] the last chance because we are going to go to Paris and give it a go. But the chance of going through there are slimmer than before the game. Everyone loves to play an FA Cup final.”