Jose Mourinho has heaped praise on the work rate shown by Alexis Sanchez during Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday.
The Chilean begun the game on the right hand side and initially struggled to impose himself on the game, firing a tame shot at Thibaut Courtois from a promising position.
But his pin-point pass to Anthony Martial, who then assisted Romelu Lukaku’s equaliser, set the tone for a greater influence in the second half, with the Chilean linking up well with Paul Pogba and harassing Chelsea players on the ball.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, was quick to make note of how Sanchez played an important role in both attack and midfield.
“I don’t like to individualise,” he said. “I think Matic was phenomenal, I think Pogba played a fantastic game in our midfield. I could speak about my central defenders too and the guys in attack.”
“The mission Alexis had, to be the third attacking player but at the same time the fourth midfield player to try to cover the area in front of Scott. I think everyone made a big effort.”
This was a game that saw Sanchez produce very little in the final third, and yet his influence on the collective performance as a whole was there to see.
Mourinho’s acquisition of Sanchez was not just about goals and assists, after all. The 29-year-old brings a form of raw energy to the table that falls in line with the direct, cutthroat approach always favoured by the boss: an ability to attack and defend with ruthless efficiency.
Against Chelsea he tore around the pitch, pinching the ball off blue shirts and acting as a general nuisance for the likes of Victor Moses and Danny Drinkwater. His performance reminded me of an angry wasp: unavoidable, full of ferocious energy, slightly directionless in attack, yet effective at unsettling his victim.
But while that zeal and purpose he brings to the pitch takes United even closer to the classic Mourinho mould, supporters will nonetheless expect him to start producing in front of goal along with adding an extra dimension of energy to the team’s set-up.