Alexis Sanchez has not “become a bad player overnight”, says Andy Cole, with Manchester United still expected to get value from a player who has been “like a kid with a new football” in his eagerness to impress.
Sanchez has, however, mustered just four goals across 32 appearances during his time at Old Trafford, while also struggling with a series of niggling knocks.
Cole believes the 30-year-old forward could be accused of having tried too hard to prove himself in new surroundings, with there still every chance that he will come good now that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has breathed new life into a United side which had stagnated under Jose Mourinho.
The former Red Devils striker told ESPN: "You never become a bad player overnight.
"When he left Arsenal for Man United, he joined a team which was totally different. You have to change as a player, which is difficult.
"His work ethic is the same, but while he has given the ball away too much, it has been because he's been trying things because he wanted to produce a pass or score goals.
"He will improve because everyone else has improved since Ole took over.
"Alexis has got good pace and he never stops running or closing down. He's like a little kid with a new football who wants to show how good he is. He was like that at Arsenal where he scored goals."
While backing Sanchez to rediscover his spark, Cole is also looking for the likes of Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to play at their full potential.
Both men are held in high regard, with their creative qualities considered to be key attributes for the Red Devils.
"He's a flair player who needs to have the opportunity to express himself," Cole said of Martial.
He added on Lingard and conversations he once had with Sir Alex Ferguson about the England international: "He would say that [Lingard] is going to be like Jean Tigana.
"Jesse was a late developer who had many loans, but he's said himself that he plays better for England than for Manchester United.
"Maybe he was getting more freedom for England, but now under Ole Gunnar he's getting more of that. You have to play with freedom. Manchester United have always played with freedom and creativity."
Under Solskjaer, United have enjoyed a run of six successive victories across all competitions, with a home date against Brighton on Saturday set to present them with an opportunity to stretch that run to seven games and close further on the Premier League’s top four.