We are yet to see the full damage that COVID-19 will have on world football, but it is certainly going to have a telling effect on transfers, be it outgoing or incoming. Subsequently the futures of Manchester United’s two high profile loaned out stars, Chris Smalling and Alexis Sanchez, are now in doubt due to the COVID-19 breakout. As we approach the summer transfer window or what becomes of it, it will be interesting to see what steps are taken by the Red Devils regarding these two players who are arguably better off in their lives outside the country.
Due to the massive ramifications of the Pandemic on the global economy and our daily life in general, It has been heavily reported that the price of transfer fees will drop considerably and we could increasingly see swap deals between players becoming the norm of the day.
Likewise, as an effect of the pandemic, unwanted players could find themselves with an opportunity to play once again for their respective clubs and grab hold of another fortunate chance to show off their merit and credentials. Something of which could well become the case at Manchester United with their out-on-loan players Smalling and Sanchez.
Ramifications of the Pandemic is something that almost every club on the face of the Earth will have to deal with, and finding a way around it will become imperative for all football clubs. Barcelona will struggle with offloading Coutinho and Dembele, Real Madrid with James Rodriguez, and similarly back home Manchester United with their star duo Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling.
In a post-COVID-19 football world, It will be intriguing to see whether these two can reclaim a place in the Manchester United squad or will they be deemed “surplus to requirements” and be sold to whoever actually does the unthinkable, They could also be loaned out again or used in other player swap deals and that is something we could see more of in the near future.
Alexis Sanchez (Inter Milan)
It is fair to say that Alexis Sanchez has been very underwhelming for Manchester United. Arriving from Arsenal, in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan (a sign of future dealings in the footballing world?), Sanchez was given the iconic number seven shirt at Old Trafford and became United’s highest-earning player by a margin.
However, with things not going according to plan, at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, the Chilean was loaned out to Inter Milan. It was clear that Manchester United didn’t envision a future with Alexis Sanchez, being happy to just send the 31-year-old winger out on loan, so that a part of his massive wage was off the wage structure.
Assessing Sanchez’s options now, it appears that there could be a way back for him into the Manchester United squad, which would have sounded outlandish to many Manchester United supporters earlier. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which are yet to be fully seen on the transfer market, Sanchez might find himself with a place in the United squad yet again if the Red Devils are unable to sign transfer targets, with Solskjaer even stating in January 2020:
“Alexis will come back in the summer and prove you all wrong.”
Alternatively, a move (whether temporary or permanent) elsewhere also remains a probable option for Alexis Sanchez. With reports of Inter Milan considering extending his loan into next season, interest from Roma and recent rumours of Sanchez being potentially included in some kind of deal for Borussia Dortmund’s high-flying Jadon Sancho, it seems that the Chilean winger and United will have various offers to consider.
Chris Smalling (Roma)
Since being loaned out to Roma, Chris Smalling has been very impressive during the present season for the Giallorossi, putting in some great performances for the Serie A club. A snapshot of these impressive performances can be seen when Smalling was described as “An absolute totem of the defence” by Gazzetta dello Sport (via Goal.com). Subsequently there have been numerous reports linking Smalling with a permanent move to Roma, however, many speculate that Chris Smalling could also be on his way back to Old Trafford now.
In terms of Chris Smalling’s potential options, there is of course the existing possibility of a transfer elsewhere. The obvious transfer would be Roma (his current club), with reports also linking the defender with Arsenal.
Like Sanchez, Chris Smalling also now has the opportunity to make a place for himself in the United squad, given his performances in recent times. In an interview, on the Manchester United official website, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was quoted praising the 30-year-old defender and expects him to return to Old Trafford next season. He said:
“Chris has been fantastic,”
“We know that sometimes if you change the environment it can go both ways,”
“Chris is the type to relish these challenges and he’s cultured and he enjoys life there. It’s a different life, it’s a new experience for him. He’s a boy who, he couldn’t be here without being a regular and we decided on that and I’m so, so happy for him because we can see the top player that he is.”
It does seem that Smalling still has a career at Manchester United, but will he be a regular starting player or not, that seems to be the question? And if he is not a regular, will he stay or move elsewhere? These are some of the questions which are likely to be answered in the coming days as football resumes but what certain is that both have been handed a fresh chance to cement their credentials for the Manchester United first team squad that earlier would not have been possible.