Alexis Sanchez still has many years left at the highest level and just needs goals to increase his confidence, Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists.
The Chile international has struggled badly to hit top form since his move from Arsenal last January, while injuries have limited his opportunities for regular runs in the starting line-up.
Sanchez came off the bench for the injured Jesse Lingard against Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford on Tuesday, but again failed to impress as his side suffered a 2-0 defeat, after which Solskjaer suggested he could do nothing to help the forward out of his malaise.
With Lingard and Anthony Martial facing up to three weeks out, Sanchez could well be involved in Monday’s FA Cup clash with Chelsea and next Sunday’s Premier League showdown with Liverpool.
And Solskjaer insists the 30-year-old can still forge an impressive career at United, suggesting all he needs is a boost in self-belief.
“I think he’s a very good player,” he said. “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, very good player there. It’s one of those things. You have that bottle of ketchup when it never comes, but when it suddenly comes, there’s loads!
“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.”
United won 10 of their first 11 games under Solskjaer before the somewhat chastening defeat to PSG, a result that leaves the FA Cup as their most realistic hope of ending the season with a trophy.
Solskjaer hopes for a response at Stamford Bridge after admitting that some of his squad had their pride hurt by the loss to the Ligue 1 champions.
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“I’m not going to say it’s the last chance [for silverware] because we are going to go to Paris and give it a go [in the second leg],” he said. “But the chances of going through there are slimmer than before the game.
“Everyone loves to play an FA Cup final. It’s one of the best memories I’ve got, playing at Wembley when we beat Newcastle United [in 1999].
“We need every player to perform to the best level. We are challenging to be top four, challenging against very, 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. You always do well towards the end of the season.
“The players have had this little setback with the PSG game, maybe a reality check. There are quite a few heads there [where] their pride has been hurt. I’m sure they’ll bounce back on Monday.”
United beat Arsenal 3-1 away in the last round, a game in which Sanchez scored the opening goal and Romelu Lukaku, another forward struggling for form, earned two assists.
Solskjaer is looking for a similar impact against Chelsea if Lukaku is handed another chance to impress.
“Rom is a quick player and has physical presence, but we decided on Juan [Mata] and Alexis at half-time [against PSG],” he said. “But Rom gives us something else from Jesse and Anthony, so don’t worry.
“He’s made an impact before and he did really well with Alexis in the FA Cup in the last round, so let’s see.”
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