Mourinho still sticking by Sanchez to come good

Ian WHITTELL
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Alexis Sanchez has struggled for fitness and form in eight months at Manchester United

Jose Mourinho believes Alexis Sanchez will recover his form and fitness for Manchester United, but insists he had no input into the Chile forward's decision to skip his country's upcoming friendly internationals.

Chile manager Reinaldo Rueda claimed this week the United forward pulled out of games in Asia against Japan and South Korea on the explicit advice of the Old Trafford medical staff.

Sanchez suffered an unspecified training injury that ruled him out of United’s disappointing defeat at Brighton two weeks ago.

And he was only fit enough for a cameo appearance off the bench in an even more demoralising 3-0 home loss to Tottenham on Monday as United plunged into an early season crisis.

Sanchez's decision not to go away with Chile has met with Mourinho’s approval, although the United manager denied Rueda’s claims that the club pressured him to do so.

"I didn’t ask and I never ask players not to go," said Mourinho.

"I never contact national teams for players not to go. It's a personal thing between him and the national manager.

"At the same time, coming from injury he feels that for him it is a much needed two weeks off.

"He is still in condition to play against Burnley but he feels that after that he needs two weeks to put himself in good shape.

"And because they are friendly matches in Asia, they made a decision for his good and by consequence for our good, for him not to go."

Sanchez's signature was a stunning coup for United in January, as they beat off strong competition from neighbours Manchester City by offering the player reportedly the most lucrative wage in Premier League history.

However, Sanchez has so far struggled to match the hype or the heights he did with former club Arsenal.

The 29-year-old has scored just three times in 20 appearances for Mourinho, but his manager still has faith that he will return to show supporters his true ability.

"I hope so. I hope we can see it," said Mourinho. "He had a good pre-season, he had a good start to the season.

"Then he had a small injury that kept him out and then he came just one day before Tottenham, and he comes into the game with the result 2-0. Let’s see from now.

"He is committed, he is focused. He works hard. I believe he will improve."

- 35 matches to play -

Sunday would be a fine time for Sanchez to repay Mourinho's faith as the Portuguese travels to Burnley's Turf Moor desperately needing a positive result to ease the feeling his days in charge could be numbered.

Mourinho predicted United would suffer a "difficult" season when he wasn't backed as much as he would have liked in the transfer market, but believes there has been an over-reaction to two straight defeats.

"I said that in the summer before the competition started," he added.

"It’s not especially (difficult) now. Two defeats are two defeats. We still have 35 matches to play."

A bad week for United was compounded by a tough Champions League draw alongside Juventus, a resurgent Valencia and Swiss champions Young Boys.

However, Juve's visit to Manchester on October 23 will ensure an emotional return to Old Trafford for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mourinho was Real Madrid boss when Ronaldo scored against his former club for the Spanish giants in 2012 and is confident he will relish another hero's reception.

"I think he will like it," said Mourinho. "He was happy to come back when he was at Real Madrid.

"He comes back to do a job for them, like he did for Real Madrid. But I think he is very happy to come."