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’.
“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.”
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