How can Man United get the best out of Sanchez?

2 Comments

Manchester United’s stunning comeback win against Crystal Palace on Monday saw Romelu Lukaku step up, while Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata were influential off the bench in their second half fight rally.

But where was Alexis Sanchez?

[ MORE: Mourinho happy with comeback

The Chilean star, 29, cut a frustrated figure throughout the first half as he started out on the left and failed to impact the game. In the second half he was pushed into the middle to play behind Lukaku and although he saw more of the ball, Sanchez gave the ball away on 34 occasions (more than any other player on the pitch) and failed to assert himself on the game as we often saw with Arsenal over the past three years.

That’s been the case for most of his first few weeks at United.

Following his eagerly anticipated arrival from Arsenal in January (he arrived at Old Trafford via a swap with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and signed the largest contract in club history) Sanchez has scored one goal in eight outings and that was a tap in after his penalty kick against Huddersfield Town was saved. He has added two assists across those eight games.

The main reasons for the lack of offensive output is because Mourinho doesn’t seem to know where to play Sanchez. He’s often started on the left then found himself pushed inside and there’s an argument to be made that he’s actually much more effective as a central striker than a wide man.

It will be intriguing to see where he starts against Liverpool on Saturday (Watch live, 7: 30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), or if he starts at all given his poor display against Palace. He will likely start but if Jesse Lingard, Rashford or Anthony Martial put in that kind of display, they would not start the next game. Fact.

Sanchez played primarily up top for Arsenal in the 2016-17 season and he scored 30 goals and added 19 assists in 51 games in all competitions. That is incredibly productive and he kept Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck out of the team as he made the central striker role his own.

The main issue is that Romelu Lukaku, Rashford and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic are ahead of him in the pecking order in the center forward role at United and even though Mourinho may now use him more in a central area as a No.10, he is at his best when he is creating chances in the final third and running at defenders in the penalty box.

Right now Sanchez is doing most of his work 40 yards from goal and Mourinho must find a way to get him more involved further up the pitch.

Then again, with Sanchez a willing runner and never shying away from his defensive responsibilities, United’s more defensive approach compared to Arsenal’s free-flowing attacking play may be the real issue here. Mourinho may not want to upset the balance of his team and with Lukaku well on track to reach 30 goals in all competitions, perhaps he is happy with less goals and assists from Sanchez.

Either way, United need to figure out how to get the best out of Sanchez and that could well be playing him up top alongside or just underneath Lukaku.

Nigeria beats Iceland; Argentina still alive

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Leave a comment

Ahmed Musa scored a pair of terrific goals as Nigeria set up Group D for a thrilling final day with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd on Friday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was arguably Iceland’s Man of the Match before he sent a penalty kick over the bar.

Nigeria now has three points, two more than Argentina and Iceland. Nigeria plays Argentina and Croatia faces Iceland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Gylfi Sigurdsson swung a dangerous early free kick over the bar, then produced the game’s second chance. That one was caught by Francis Uzoho, the 19-year-old Deportivo de la Coruna backstop.

Nigeria’s breakthrough came courtesy a lethal counter attack, as Kenneth Omeruo headed a cross clear of the Eagles’ 18. Kelechi Iheanacho collected and found Victor Moses racing down the right flank.

Moses’ cross was collected by Musa with an unorthodox outside of the boot trap, allowing him a second against his surprised mark. Musa lashed home for 1-0.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The game was delayed for a bit when Ragnar Sigurdsson was waylaid with a head injury.

Wilfred Ndidi had a rip deflected over the bar in the 57th, and Nigeria opted for a short corner.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Musa then basically put it to bed when he cut into the 18 and danced around two defenders with the goalkeeper in between before putting a composed finish into the goal.

Iceland got new life through an 81st minute penalty kick awarded via Video Assistant Referee, but Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed it over the bar.

Jorginho to Man City? Italian report, Noel Gallagher say so

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but I like my transfer news served up piping fresh from the hot stove of Oasis.

Well, at least ex-members of Oasis.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Noted Man City fanatic Noel Gallagher was performing in Naples on Friday with his band the High Flying Birds.

After pumping through a couple Oasis tunes and a cover of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” on Thursday, the singer tossed a little banter toward the crowd.

You see, Man City really wants Napoli midfielder Jorginho, and Gallagher at least looks like a man in the know as Italy’s Corriere Della Sport is reporting that the midfielder is trading his blue shirts between countries.

Jorginho will cost City $57 million, according to the report, which follows this barb from Noel.

Coutinho saves Brazil from Neymar’s VAR humiliation

AP Photo/Michael Sohn
Leave a comment

Dominant Brazil needed stoppage time to find a way past Costa Rican backstop Keylor Navas and pick up a 2-0 win in Saint Petersburg on Friday.

Neymar embarrassingly saw an awarded penalty overturned when he flopped instead of shooting following a tug from Giancarlo Gonzalez, but Philippe Coutinho toe-poked a shot through Navas’ legs in the first of six stoppage time minutes.

Neymar would later add a goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time from Douglas Costa.

Brazil finishes the group stage with Serbia, while Costa Rica waits on Switzerland.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Brazil controlled the first 12 minutes of the match, but Costa Rica just missed a bid to make it 1-0 against the run of play.

Deportivo La Coruña midfielder Celso Borges darted into the box to drag a low shot just wide of the far post.

Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the back of the goal in the 26th minute, but was deemed offside. And Keylor Navas stymied another Brazil rush a minute later.

But Costa Rica’s packed-in camp held Brazil at bay into the break.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Brazil fired out of the gates to start the second half, and Navas was again busy as Neymar clattered into him in search of a loose ball. Well, kinda loose.

When Philippe Coutinho’s hammered shot was blocked out for a corner, it simultaneously felt like Brazil’s goal was either inevitable or destined to not arrive.

Navas then pushed a Neymar point-blank bid over the bar.

Tite opted to bring on Roberto Firmino, but Navas kept up his heroics by collecting a header off another Brazil corner.

The possibility of a scoreless draw felt even more likely when Neymar stole the ball and whipped a 21-yard shot just off the upper 90.

Neymar looked to have a won a penalty kick when Gonzalez tugged him in the six, but VAR overturned the call.

Fabregas praises Vela vs. Germany, not impressed by Ronaldo

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas was left off the Spain squad for this summer’s World Cup, and has been working as a pundit for the BBC.

Friday morning found him posting a column — well, we doubt he handled the posting — on the tournament so far, one that talked about how Spain rebounded from a tournament-opening loss to win the World Cup.

[ MORE: Lichaj moves to Hull ]

Fabregas then touched on Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup, saying credit due to his four goals but also questioning how impressed anyone should be with three goals from set pieces and a fourth from a David De Gea gaffe.

You cannot say that he and Portugal have shown great combinations or tiki-taka football to score great goals.

You have to give him credit, of course, but his goals have come from set-pieces, penalties or mistakes.

Seems a bit of anti-Real Madrid carryover there, although the sentiment is real (Portugal has not been impressive despite its four points).

Fabregas then went on to highlight one particular performance in the tournament: Mexico and LAFC midfielder Carlos Vela’s work in El Tri‘s upset of Germany.

Vela left Real Sociedad to join Los Angeles FC at the start of the year and people seem to think that when you go to the MLS, or that type of league, your level drops.

That was not the case when he played against Germany, because Kroos could not shake him off. He tried but he could not influence the game.

See, Cesc: You can totally come to our shores and run point for a team. Toronto is really close to me, if you’re asking, but Philly, Columbus, and New York are reasonable enough drives.