PHOENIX — Alexis Sanchez “has to play” against San Jose Earthquakes this weekend even though his arrival in the United States has been delayed because of a visa issue, according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Sanchez is due to land in Los Angeles on Friday after he was finally granted permission to travel by U.S. authorities.
The 29-year-old, who has been working alone at Carrington for four days, will train with his teammates at UCLA on Saturday and, Mourinho has said he will play against San Jose Earthquakes in Santa Clara 24 hours later.
“It is not about when he can [play], but when he has to,” Mourinho told a news conference on Thursday following the 1-1 draw with Club America in Phoenix.
“We have no players and especially in attack we have no players, today was [Anthony] Martial and when Martial left the pitch was [Juan] Mata and when Mata went to the sides it was a kid that was a first time he trained with us in this preseason.
“No [Romelu] Lukaku, no [Marcus] Rashford, not here and probably not the start of the Premier League, so is about when Alexis lands and when he lands he has to play because he trained with us five days before we depart to LA and we left one fitness coach behind with him.
“Of course it is individual training but when he arrives he has to play. If he’s coming he has to play.”
Mata got United’s first goal of the summer with the equaliser against Club America. It was set up in part by 18-year-old Dutchman Tahith Chong, making his first senior appearance, with a fantastic cross from the right.
The winger, signed from Feyenoord in 2016, came on for the final 30 minutes at the University of Phoenix Stadium, but it was enough to make an impression on Mourinho.
“I have plans to make him train the most most possible times with us because that increases his evolution,” Mourinho said. “But he has to play where he belongs, he has to play in the academy and develop physically because physically is where he is not ready.
“Technically he is very good, tactically he understands the game and he understands his position but by the physical point of view, when the game gets into contact situations he is in trouble, he is fragile, he is still a kid.
“The talent is there, the personality is there, the passion to play, the humility to learn, so this is a fantastic experience for him.
“If he can play like today, 20 or 25 minutes in every one of these five matches and if during the season he trains with us and has a couple of occasions to play minutes with us, I don’t know, depends on some cup matches, he is one of the good kids we have.
“It is not for today but for the tomorrow he is a good kid.”
Rob is ESPN FC’s Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.