Jose Mourinho has insisted Alexis Sanchez will only continue to improve at Manchester United next season.
The Chilean arrived over the January transfer window and, by his own admission, initially struggled to acclimatise at Old Trafford and went nine games without a goal.
But he has recently started to look at home in a Man United shirt and in tune with his teammates, claiming three assists and two goals in his last five appearances.
And Mourinho, speaking ahead of the clash with Sanchez’s former club on Sunday, made it clear that the 29-year-old would only keep moving in the right direction.
“He was playing in our competition for years – we all know how good he was,” he said.
“That’s why he was chased by many teams I believe, that’s why we fought to have him here and I was, since day one, sure he was the right player.
“Not just by the typical football qualities but also by his mentality and we needed that, a little bit more experience, mental aggressiveness and I knew sooner or later were coming.
“I don’t like the January market but was now or never and now if we can have good Alexis until the end of the season better for us.
“We need seven points, we have a final to play. Can he help us? I hope so and next season after pre-season, after being comfortable and adapted he’s going to be great for us.”
Sanchez noted last month that he considered missing internationals for Chile in order to put some extra miles in at Carrington, but ultimately decided against it.
And he will be glad he did. That time away with his national teammates, away from the dreariness of Manchester and the omnipresent spotlight, changed something for him psychologically.
The first game back, against Swansea City, he was everywhere, claiming a goal and an assist and just generally looking like the player we all know: sharp, ruthlessly energetic, all over the pitch, moving the ball quickly, creating problems for defenders. For the first time, he didn’t look like a stranger to his teammates.
And then came that second half against Manchester City, where his individual brilliance was enshrined by two pinpoint assists and a daring run which ignited United’s ambitiousness for the first time that day.
Two weeks later, he was once again taking control of a big game, scoring against Tottenham Hotspur and running himself into the ground mercilessly.
It may have taken more time than many expected, but make no mistake: Alexis is well on his way at Old Trafford.