Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt Alexis Sanchez “needed to go” before ruling out a move for fan favourite Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
A fortnight on from the manager backing 30-year-old Sanchez to turn around his Old Trafford career, the forward completed his loan move to Inter Milan for the rest of the season.
The Chile international has fallen well short of expectations and done precious little to justify his eye-watering wages, which the PA news agency understands United will cover around £6.5million of during his stint in Serie A.
The forward mustered a paltry five goals in 45 appearances for United and Solskjaer believes the move was best for all parties.
“I think Alexis needed to go,” the United boss said. “Because at the moment we know he has been here now for 18 months and it’s not really worked out for him.
“For him as well to restart and get himself playing regularly, getting himself scoring goals, that loan will benefit everyone in the end.
“For us, we’re going to watch every weekend now to see Romelu (Lukaku) and Alexis playing together.”
It is quite the about-turn from Solskjaer, given he not only admitted United’s forward line was light but backed Sanchez to “come good at this club”.
“I think he will come good for them,” the Norwegian said. “Just, for us, we had a decision to make here. I’m trusting Anthony (Martial), Marcus (Rashford), Mason (Greenwood) to be our centre forwards.
“We’ve got wingers in Chongy (Tahith Chong), Dan James, (Andreas) Pereira, we’ve got loads of options.
“And, for me, it’s time for our boys to feel that pressure and responsibility, be more robust, knowing that ‘OK, I might have to play five games in a row’.
On our attacking players, Ole says: "I’m trusting Anthony, Marcus and Mason to be our centre-forwards. We’ve got wingers in Chongy, Daniel James, Pereira — we’ve got loads of options." #MUFC pic.twitter.com/CzOgIPPWtV— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 30, 2019
“And that’s another responsibility and something we’re looking forward to at this club.
“I trust the fitness staff and medical staff and that we’ve done the pre-season work.
“We’re mentally and physically more ready, and that’s the next step for our young players.”
There is something to be said for experience, though, and this week Ibrahimovic hinted that he was open to a United return in an interview with PA.
The 37-year-old is currently impressing in Major League Soccer for the LA Galaxy, where his contract expires at the end of the year.
“Well, if he was 28 and not 38 next month it’s a big difference!” Solskjaer said.
“But Zlatan has had a great time here and of course he’s still doing well. He was just unfortunate that he got his injury when he got it here.
“Who knows? He knows my number. He never rented my house but he was looking at it and we can speak a native language. If he’s serious, I’ll always speak to Zlatan.”
Asked if he would seriously consider him coming back, the United boss added: “I don’t think that’ll happen, no. I think he’s had his time at the club.
“He’s had a fantastic career and I wouldn’t expect him to be serious either when he said that.”
Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw are out of Saturday’s trip to Southampton through thigh and hamstring issues respectively, joining Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot and Timothy Fosu-Mensah on the sidelines.
“They’re doing OK, but they won’t be involved in this game,” Solskjaer said of the pair.
“They’ll need the international break. Hopefully Anthony is ready for the Leicester game and Luke maybe another week or two after that.
“They’ve got slight injuries that they picked up in the game against Palace, and in one respect, it’s a positive time to get it, because it’s the international break for them, and they won’t miss many games.”
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season?
We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why, or why not.
Inter Milan -> €65m -> Atletico Madrid
Diego Simeone’s men are among a group of clubs to register interest in the Inter rebel, according to gianlucadimarzio.com.
Why it will happen: The marriage between the Nerazzurri and their troublesome former captain broke down even before this summer’s arrival of Antonio Conte. But with the Italian disciplinarian now in situ and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku brought in for a club-record fee, an exit seems inevitable. Atleti failed to tie up a move for Valencia and Spain forward Rodrigo a fortnight ago. Icardi could be their next target.
Why it won’t happen: The intransigence of Icardi and his wife/agent Wanda Nara is infamous. They will only leave on their terms – if at all. Other clubs are also lurking around the occasional Argentina striker, sensing a bargain prior to September 2’s deadline. These include Serie A champions Juventus and Ligue 1’s Monaco.
Transfer Predictor: 3/10
Tottenham -> €80m -> Paris Saint-Germain
PSG have identified Denmark playmaker Eriksen as a possible replacement for Neymar if a blockbuster return to La Liga does, belatedly, go through, according to Le Parisien.
Why it will happen: A chasm in the PSG attack will be ripped open if their Brazil superstar departs. A cash element to the mooted part-exchange deal with Barcelona or Real Madrid will leave the Ligue 1 champions with an ability to further invest. Eriksen is usually deployed on the right wing for Spurs, boasts supreme technical quality and is within the last year of his contract. PSG sporting director Leonardo is also a long-term fan.
Why it won’t happen: PSG have plenty of options. They are pushing to include reluctant France winger Ousmane Dembele in the deal, possibly on a one-season loan. Juventus and Argentina forward Paulo Dybala remains another option. Money could also be spent on Icardi, whose required to support Uruguay centre forward Edinson Cavani. Eriksen also made it clear to suitors Manchester United earlier this month that he only wanted a move to La Liga.
Transfer Predictor: 4/10
Tottenham -> €15m -> Bayer Leverkusen
The Belgium centre-back’s drop out of the Spurs XI and expiring contract has alerted the interest of Leverkusen, according to kicker.
Why it will happen: Vertonghen has fallen dramatically out of favour at Spurs this term. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has not handed the 32-year-old a minute of Premier League action in 2019/20, which is a huge decline from his guaranteed-starter status when fit since joining from Ajax in 2012. With only a year left on his contract, now may be the time to push Vertonghen towards the exit door. Wait any longer and he’ll probably leave on a free transfer. Peter Bosz’s side sense a bargain.
Why it won’t happen: Spurs understudy Davinson Sanchez, in particular, has endured a shaky start to the season. This may force Pochettino to turn back to his experienced defender. With the transfer window closed in the Premier League, Spurs’ inability to bring in a replacement is another major obstacle.
Transfer Predictor: 6/10
“Anything can happen” said Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel about Neymar’s possible move back to Barcelona as he spoke to the press on Thursday on the eve of a Ligue 1 match at Metz.
The Brazil star trained with his team-mates on Thursday, but Tuchel said that he is not going to play against Metz.
PSG and Barcelona presidents Nasser Al Khelaifi and Josep Maria Bartomeu met on Thursday in Monaco where they both travelled to take part to a UEFA Strategy Committee ahead of the Champions League draw.
“I can only say that I’m relaxed, calm. When it comes to soccer, everything is crazy. Anything can happen, it’s not the time to lose your mind. It is what it is. There are still four days (left before the transfer market ends). Anything can happen” was Tuchel’s comment.