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Sunk cost of Sanchez holding Man Utd back

AFP  |  London 

Manchester United travel to on Tuesday needing another miraculous fightback from a 1-0 first-leg defeat on home soil to make the semi-finals.

The return of the club's highest earner from a six-week layoff to make the voyage to Catalonia in such circumstances should be a source of inspiration.

However, it is symptomatic of Alexis Sanchez's decline in 16 months at United that the Chilean makes his comeback behind Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, and in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's pecking order.

Sanchez signed reportedly the most lucrative contract in history when joining from Arsenal last January, earning close to ?400,000 ($520,000) a week plus a series of bonuses.

Unfortunately for the Red Devils, there has not been much cause for bonus payments as Sanchez has scored just five goals in 41 appearances for the club and only twice so far in his first full season at Old Trafford.

Sanchez left for the in 2014 in search of a more prominent role after being squeezed out by the arrival of Neymar at the and with soon to complete a fearsome front three alongside

Now into their thirties, Suarez and Messi still pose Barca's biggest threats, combining for 66 goals this season.

By contrast, a hard-running style and years of grind for club and country seem to have burned Sanchez out having just turned 30 in December.

In four consecutive summers between 2014 and 2017, he helped reach the last 16 of the World Cup, win two America titles in two years and then make the final of the Confederations Cup.

So durable for much of his career, Sanchez's time at United has been permeated not only by poor performances but a series of

Falling down the pecking order in a Barca squad laced with star talent and built around arguably the best ever in Messi is one thing.

Now Sanchez is a mere spectator even to a United side that has scored just once in five home games this season and failed to manage a single shot on target in the first leg against Barca.

The splash on Sanchez's contract also threatens to cost the club dearly, either in lucrative new deals, or losing some of their best players.

Solskjaer credited a fortunate 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday to a stunning save from

"We have one of the best goalkeepers in the world," said the Norwegian, but De Gea's future is far from certain as he holds out for a pay packet at least on par with Sanchez with his current contract set to expire in 2020.

is also in talks over a new contract and reportedly wants to be the club's highest earner if United are to ward off interest from Real Madrid.

A run of four defeats and two highly unconvincing 2-1 home wins over Watford and West Ham since United stunned Saint-Germain with a 3-1 win in the French capital to make the last eight has laid bare how much is needed on Solskjaer's squad, even if they hold onto De Gea and Pogba.

Instead, it is Sanchez they would love to ship out if a buyer can be found to fund his wages.

A quarter-final at the is exactly the sort of stage United's number seven was signed for.

But with a ?75,000 appearance fee included in his contract, it seems Solskjaer and United have decided there is little point throwing good money after bad.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, April 15 2019. 09:15 IST