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Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez needs to rest and press reset on 2017-18

Alexis Sanchez probably cannot wait to see the back of this season. He may have secured himself a move away from Arsenal, landing the biggest wages in English football in the process by signing for Manchester United in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January, but little else has gone right for the Chilean over the past 12 months.

Some would even suggest that he made the wrong choice when heading through the exit door at the Emirates.

Almost four months on from his switch to Old Trafford, Sanchez has yet to prove that he is the right man for United. It is still early days, of course: Four months is no time in football, and perhaps Sanchez is a victim of the modern demand for instant success.

If Mohamed Salah can hit get the ground running in spectacular fashion at Liverpool -- 43 goals and counting for the Egyptian this season -- then why can't Sanchez make a similar impact in a United shirt? That's the simplistic view, anyway.

Had Sanchez moved to Manchester City, either in January or last August, when a deal had been agreed with Arsenal, he may have found the acclimatisation process easier in Pep Guardiola's squad than he has so far at United.

Some of these thoughts may be gnawing away at Sanchez as he prepares to face Arsenal on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club earlier this year.

Did he make the right move? Should he have waited until becoming a free agent in the summer? Is Jose Mourinho the right manager to get the best out of him? And can he make a success of his move to United?

Right now, Sanchez cannot give a satisfactory answer to any of the questions above. He has not shown enough so far in a United shirt to offer clarity in response to any of them. Three goals in 14 appearances so far is a poor return for a player who scored 82 goals in 166 games for Arsenal.

Sanchez was signed to become United's game-changer, the guy who would make the difference in the biggest matches, but apart from his header in the FA Cup semifinal against Tottenham, which cancelled out Dele Alli's opener and provided the springboard for United's victory, he has not delivered when it mattered most.

The Chilean told MUTV this week that he finds it "very different" at United than at Arsenal, talking about the greater history and demands to win at Old Trafford. But having played for Barcelona, Sanchez should know all about life at a club as big as United. If he is feeling the pressure of expectancy at his new club, it shows with comments like that.

He also spoke about the need to "adapt" and "giving everything next year," so he cannot be accused of hiding from the reality of his move so far. Sanchez's malaise, however, is not all down to the player.

He has not been helped by Mourinho's failure to find the right role for him. At Arsenal, Sanchez proved himself to be lethal as a central forward, yet Romelu Lukaku's presence in the team has denied him that spot at United. So he has been deployed out wide and behind the Belgian as Mourinho has attempted to assimilate his new signing into the team.

But Sanchez's presence has also disrupted the progression of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, with Paul Pogba's form slump coinciding with his arrival. The 29-year-old cannot be blamed for any of those issues and he has certainly not lacked the work-rate required to make an impression. If anything, he has been guilty of trying too hard.

Yet there is also the issue of fatigue, both mentally and physically, that has had a major impact on Sanchez. Mentally, he was clearly distracted in his final months at Arsenal after failing to get his move to City and he has lacked sharpness in that area all season.

It is perhaps no surprise that he has hit a wall, though, when you consider that this summer will be Sanchez's first break from football since 2013. He played in the 2014 World Cup with Chile, then helped them win back-to-back Copa America titles in 2015 and 2016, before spending almost three weeks of last summer in Russia as Chile reached the Confederations Cup final.

Missing out on Russia 2018 will have been a blow for a player who has never hidden his pride at playing for his country, but it may prove to be a blessing for Sanchez to enjoy a full break this summer before returning refreshed and ready to live up to expectations with United next season.

He has too much quality, passion and hunger to fail at United, but his early months at the club have been a struggle. He can press the reset button this summer, though, and start to bury the memory of the 2017-18 season.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_


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