He is only one game into his Manchester United career but Alexis Sanchez has already begun to whet the appetites of his new supporters.
The 4-0 FA Cup win over Yeovil Town on Friday presented all the hallmarks of a nightmare debut, but the Chilean instead was the star man in a sometimes shaky but ultimately professional performance by the Red Devils.
The bobbly pitch did nothing for Sanchez’s trademark busy running style, while the Yeovil fans did their best to get on his back from minute one, optimistically labelling him "a waste of money" early on, but he took it all in his stride in a 72-minute display which promised far more to come when he finds himself in more favourable surroundings.
- Two shots & no assists in six games: Should Sancho's slow start to Man Utd life be a concern?
- USWNT star Press joins Biles and Osaka on growing list of athletes prioritizing mental health
- James McAtee: Man City's 'Salford Silva' who turned his back on Man Utd
- Back from the brink! 'Liverpool legend' Origi still fighting for Anfield career
It was Sanchez’s name on everybody’s lips in the run-up to the match, with Jose Mourinho sticking to his promise that the new £35 million man would get some game time at Huish Park, choosing him on the left of the attacking midfield line behind Marcus Rashford in the lone striker’s role. But United took some time to get into their rhythm as the Portuguese made a total of 10 changes to his starting line-up, resulting in more than a few scary moments in their own territory.
Yet whenever they got the ball to Sanchez, it appeared that something positive was on the cards. When he wasn’t coaxing Yeovil defenders into dangerous challenges, he was giving his team-mates a preview of what is to come playing alongside the former Arsenal man.
Both Rashford and Scott McTominay had been played into decent shooting positions by Sanchez long before the former opened the scoring shortly before half-time. Sanchez nudged the ball centrally for Rashford and, after the England man had seemingly lost the ball, full-back Tom James took too long considering his options, allowing Rashford to slot past Artur Krysiak.
United went for the jugular after the break and deserved their second goal when it arrived. Once again, Sanchez was prevalent, taking Juan Mata’s pass and running at the retreating Yeovil back line before playing a neat reverse ball wide for Ander Herrera to fire confidently home.
Mourinho eventually called Sanchez’s participation to a close shortly after the attacker had been on the wrong end of another meaty challenge in which the ball had been little more than an innocent bystander. The decision to protect the Chilean ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Wembley to face Tottenham was a wise one to say the least.
On the whole, this was exactly the kind of performance United fans could have expected from their side. They were not always secure at the back as their much-changed side was put under pressure by the more physical approach of the lower-league outfit. In the end, though, they won with something to spare.
There was time for two more goals after Sanchez’s exit, with Jesse Lingard going on a solo run and shooting low past Krysiak only seconds after 17-year-old Angel Gomes had almost done exactly the same from the other flank. In the final minute of injury time, Marcos Rojo went on a rare foray forward to tee up Romelu Lukaku for another.
It has not been a bad week for Jose Mourinho. He turned 55 on Friday, signed a new contract extension, signalled his 100th game in charge of United with a 4-0 win and watched his side extend their 2018 record to five wins from five with 12 goals scored and none conceded.
Moreover, he has added a wonderful weapon to his side’s armoury. And Alexis Sanchez’s performance at Yeovil is only the taster of what he could be capable of achieving in a United shirt.