What’s wrong with Alexis Sanchez? Atom and Humber attempt to explain his struggles at Manchester United

With another limp performance and a Champions League exit, Sanchez's move to Old Trafford has not been the blockbuster move that he had hoped for when he left Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez and loyal dogs Atom (left) and Humber
Alexis Sanchez and loyal dogs Atom (left) and Humber

The living room of a luxury suburban Manchester house on Tuesday evening. A large television is flickering, watched by two golden retrievers.

ATOM

Pogba coming on for Fellaini.

HUMBER

About time, too. Why was he even starting?

ATOM

He’s been OK. Mixed it up with N’Zonzi in midfield. Won some headers. Covered the ground.

HUMBER

Cabron, even I can cover the ground. But this is the Champions League round of 16. A game we must win. Can’t you hear the crowd getting restless? You need true quality in midfield, not a big guy with a stupid afro who thinks football is a game you play with your ass. Pass the chicken rollitos.

Master Alexis in action against Sevilla

ATOM (pushing the bag towards him)

Did you see Master Alexis talking to Jose on the touchline just there? Now he’s gone to the right wing. Rashford left.

HUMBER

Deckchairs on the Titanic.

ATOM

On the contrary, it’s a good move. Rashford is clearly better on the left in current form: quicker, sharper, more dynamic. Master Alexis - though it pains me to say it - had no shots, no take-ons and a measly 61 per cent pass completion rate in the first half. The ritmo de juego is all wrong. Something had to change.

HUMBER

Enough with the pointless numbers and the jargon! The evidence of the eyes, mi amigo, is all you need. And my eyes show me a clueless team with a clueless manager who - despite the tireless efforts of our owner - have no unity, no ideas, no direction.

ATOM

You defend Master Alexis, but it’s clear to all that he’s struggling. He’s run less than Lingard, than Rashford, than even Young. He’s run less than Fellaini, who’s been off the pitch for 10 minutes. And you can’t say he’s saving his energy for the high-intensity sprint, either: eight of his United team-mates have a faster top speed. Even Mata’s quicker than him.

Slower than Mata...

HUMBER

Ben Yedder’s through! One-nil! See what I mean, Atom? The passion isn’t there. The will isn’t there. It’s like a car with no fifth gear. A bone with no marrow. Mourinho has turned them into robots.

ATOM

You can’t measure a performance in passion alone. You need judgement and intelligence as well. Look at Master Alexis there, dropping all the way into his own half to collect the ball when every Sevilla player is defending. Who does he think he is, Busquets? It’s a needless run. Now, you see, the ball gets flicked on, and there’s nobody to receive it.

HUMBER

At least it shows he’s willing to work, no? If only the rest were as willing…

ATOM

Remember your birthday picnic, the year before last? Everyone begged him to concentrate on his football and let someone else do the organising. But, no. Master Alexis ordered the cake. Master Alexis baked the tamales. Master Alexis made the yerba mate. Master Alexis hired the photographer. Master Alexis curated the Spotify playlist. It was like he didn’t trust anybody else to help. Like he needed to do everything himself, almost for his own sanity, it was the only way everything was going to be perfect. And of course, you remember what happened.

Working hard...

HUMBER

He forgot to invite anyone.

ATOM

He forgot to invite anyone. There you go, 2-0.

HUMBER

Ben Yedder again!

ATOM

This will be devastating for him. No World Cup. No Premier League. This was the one trophy he was pinning his hopes on.

HUMBER

There’s still the FA Cup.

ATOM

Nobody cares about the FA Cup. He’s already won it twice, and I don’t even know where he keeps the medals.

HUMBER

Airing cupboard, fourth drawer, back left.

ATOM

But how…?

HUMBER

I was looking for squeaky toys. Damn it, another free header. What’s the point in having Pogba defending corners when he can’t mark?

ATOM

You know what sort of mood Master Alexis will be in later, of course.

HUMBER

He always comes in to see us, whether he’s won or lost.

ATOM

Most of the time. But don’t you remember the 2012 Clasico? The second leg against Atletico, when he realised he was never going to win the Champions League with Barca? When Chile missed the World Cup? Every so often, he comes home, locks the front door and just goes straight up to bed. Barely even looks at us. Like he’s sleepwalking through a bad dream, and can’t wake up. It’s been happening more and more often lately.

Sleepwalking through a bad dream

HUMBER

Two-one, Lukaku. It’s not over yet, guero!

ATOM

Yes, it’s over. Just look at Master Alexis. The slump in his shoulders tells you everything you need to know. For him, there can never be pride in defeat. That’s what Mr Wenger never understood about him. Why waste energy on a result that can’t be changed? Why bust your balls for a trophy there’s no possibility of winning?

HUMBER

If it’s trophies he wanted, he should have gone to City when he had the chance.

ATOM

I agree. But of course you know the other thing about Master Alexis. He needs the struggle. Everything he ever got in his life, he got through struggle. Working his way from a tiny Chilean mining village to the pinnacle of the game: that’s struggle. Dragging Manchester United to the Champions League final: that’s struggle. That’s why he left Arsenal. They stopped struggling, and he couldn’t abide that. And so, going to a club who are already 13 points clear of the Premier League, being handed a trophy that everyone else in the team had to earn, where’s the struggle in that?

HUMBER

Full-time.

ATOM

Turn the TV off.

HUMBER

No, hang on a minute. Who is this guy Paul Scholes and what the hell does he know about football? He looks pale, unhealthy, suspicious. Like a guy’s who’s taken a dump in his clothes and is hoping nobody finds out.

ATOM

Humber, do you remember that time Master Alexis took us out to Hampstead Heath on the hottest day of the year?

HUMBER

Yeah, I remember. He put it on Instagram. Mail Online ran five separate stories about it.

ATOM

Do you remember how he brought us to the very top of Parliament Hill? Two hours we must have walked. And then he took the tennis ball out of his bag, and threw it down the hill for us to chase. And do you remember how it just kept rolling, and rolling, and rolling, no matter how fast we ran after it?

HUMBER

I thought we’d never catch it.

ATOM

But we did, Humber, we did. I don’t know how we did it, but with tired limbs and scruffy coats, tongues out, panting in the heat, we finally caught that blasted tennis ball. Dragged our weary bodies back up the hill. And do you remember the look on his face when we came back? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so proud. That was his gift to us, Humber. The beauty is in the struggle.

The beauty is in the struggle

HUMBER

Is that the door?

ATOM

He must be back.

HUMBER (running for the door)

Woof!

ATOM (running for the door)

Woof woof!

HUMBER

Woof woof woof woof!

ATOM

Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof!

HUMBER

Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof!

ATOM

Woof woof woof woof!

HUMBER

Woof!

ATOM

He went straight to bed.

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