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Alexis Sanchez & Inter Milan: Is he solely to blame for Man Utd demise?

COMMENT: So it's on. Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan. It can happen. The three parties want it and so long as they're all willing to give a little, the deal will be done.

For Alexis, contrary to the chatter in England, the player is prepared to take a hit on his £550,000-a-week wages. He's no mug and won't throw it all away, but there's a willingness to compromise to help both Inter and Manchester United get something over the line.

In Santiago it was well known, even before the Copa America, that Alexis had always planned to leave United this summer. That same source also putting together a theory as to why his time at Old Trafford has been such disaster. But more on that later...

With Reinaldo Rueda's Chile squad in Brazil, Alexis issued his instructions to agent, Fernando Felicevich. The striker hadn't received word from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but he knew where he stood in his manager's plans. It was best for all to move on - and so Felicevich was told to find him 'a competitive' club.

Inside United, despite the public show of confidence from Solskjaer, there's relief. As much as Solskjaer talked up Alexis last week, explaining how a series of bounce games had been arranged to sharpen his match fitness, there isn't any great enthusiasm about keeping the Chilean on. With the manager's three-year project well underway, there's simply no place for the 30 year-old.

Alexis has found himself hitting a brick wall, just as Romelu Lukaku experienced last season. As an attacking player, he isn't what Solskjaer is seeking. Watching Marcus Rashford lead the line against Chelsea last Sunday, and to a lesser extent Anthony Martial, there's a chasm between the level the England striker is working at and what we've seen from Alexis in a Red shirt. Rightly or wrongly, sometimes it's just life, Alexis - like Lukaku - simply doesn't boast the physical qualities Solskjaer is requiring from his attackers. Alexis still has the ability, but physically he's just not keeping up. Over long distances and in tight areas, he's a couple of yards slower than Rashford. There's simply no comparing the two - and it's telling that after Lukaku, Solskjaer is also prepared to allow Alexis to move on without any replacement through the gates. The Norwegian putting his faith in 17 year-old Mason Greenwood. The 'new-old' approach of the manager to look to the academy for a solution before going to market is only half the story. Greenwood, with his pace and directness, is the archetype of what Solskjaer seeks in a striker.

It's why it's significant that the one attacking player United made enquiries before the deadline was Inaki Williams. The approach made as it became apparent that Lukaku would be leaving for Inter. Fast, powerful and direct. An attacking player, like Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, capable of playing centrally and out wide. Williams would slot seamlessly into the Solskjaer system. Athletic Bilbao chief Rafa Alkorta acknowledging the United rumours last week in the aftermath of Williams signing his staggering new nine-year contract.

For many, if a deal can be done, it'll be good riddance. Alexis, as a United player, generating headlines and interest by what he hasn't done, rather than anything he's managed to achieve on the pitch. Lazy. Soft. Money mad. It's all been thrown at the striker since he quit Arsenal 18 months ago.

But in another Red shirt, the one of his nation, such labels are dismissed. And there is a good argument to be made that a big contributor to Alexis' failings at United has been the lack of a support team put in place by the club.

In Brazil, with Rueda's Chile, we saw the old Alexis. El Nino Maravilla - even at 30. The self-belief was back. The confidence surged. And the goals flowed. In the Chile shirt he was a man transformed. But this was no fluke. The campaign Alexis turned in for his country was the result of a conscious plan to rebuild the player, both physically and mentally.

Physically was the easy part, Rueda having his medical team work with Alexis in the lead-up to the Copa, with a focus on fixing an ankle injury he'd carried all season. But it was the mental side which really made the difference. Rueda taking it upon himself to be in daily contact with Alexis, to cajole and motivate the striker as he worked through his rehab.

The coach also made sure to have Alexis room with the charismatic Mauricio Isla, once of QPR. The pair are good friends and Rueda urged Isla, as he did with the rest of the squad, to work on Alexis' confidence.

And the final plank in the recovery was famed sports therapist Orlando Caicedo, who was part of Rueda's backroom team for the Copa. Known for his 'pranic healing' methods, Caicedo works with individual players on every aspect of their 'material, economic, financial and spiritual well-being'. In other words, Caicedo was on hand as a sounding board for any concern Alexis had, no matter what it involved.

At United, no such support team exists. And it really does need examining whether the failure of Alexis, just as we've seen with Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Memphis Depay, is all just coincidence. Even Wilfried Zaha has spoken in the past of his isolation at United, "I was dealing with this at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived. They hadn't given me a car, like every other player. Nothing. I'm living in this hell by myself, away from my family."

There's always two sides to these stories. And for the Alexis tale, there's plenty of blame to go around. But if this Inter move does happen. And it's achieved by the player taking a hit on his wages, it would be worth those cynics writing off the Chilean to look a little deeper as to why this United move never worked out.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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