Less than a week ago Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed he hadn't had a single moment of regret at United's summer transfer business, despite seeing his injury-depleted squad stretched to the limit now.

Yet on Tuesday he backed Alexis Sanchez, packed off to Inter Milan on loan after rewriting the dictionary definition of a flop during his time at Old Trafford, to come back and prove everybody wrong. In which case, what is he doing in Milan in the first place?

Perhaps we shouldn't rule out the idea that Solskjaer had his tongue planted in his cheek when he made the comment in Tuesday's press conference. His throwaway remarks in such settings haven't always hit the spot this season, but there didn't look to be a glint in his eye, taken at face value this was a declaration that Sanchez might well get another chance to make his mark at Manchester United.

"Alexis will come back prove you all wrong," was Solskjaer's remarkably bold claim about a forward who made no impact before the summer and has suffered an injury-hit campaign in Italy.

If Solskjaer retains such faith in the Chilean attacker however, it makes the decision to allow him to leave on loan beyond baffling. It was that call, rather than the decision to sell a wantaway striker in Romelu Lukaku, that really left United's forward line down to the bare bones.

They suffered when Anthony Martial missed two months of action earlier in the season and are in trouble in attacking positions again with Marcus Rashford's injury and Daniel James' loss of form.

So the irony is that if Sanchez was still at United he would be getting more of a chance to prove people wrong here than he is in Italy. Sanchez's spell under Antonio Conte began brightly enough with a goal and an assist against Sampdoria on his first start, but he missed three-and-a-half months of football with a knee injury and since returning in the middle of this month has played 69 minutes of a Coppa Italia game and has twice come off the bench for the last eight minutes of Serie A fixtures.

In Sanchez's absence Lautaro Martinez and Lukaku have formed a formidable strike partnership. Inter look set to sign Christian Eriksen before Friday and could even add Olivier Giroud on loan, further limiting Sanchez's chances of playing himself into any kind of form.

Sanchez has played 214 minutes of football so far this season and while that figure will inevitably increase should he stay fit, he's unlikely to find himself starting too many games for the Serie A title challengers.

If he was still at United then Sanchez would be getting every chance of playing himself into some kind of rhythm now. If Solskjaer wants to play a front three he has to pick from Martial, James, Mason Greenwood, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata, with the latter two clearly unsuited to wide roles. Solskjaer would have little option but to play the former Barcelona and Arsenal forward.

When he sanctioned the temporary move for Sanchez, Solskjaer said: "Alexis needed to go, at the moment we know he’s been here for 18 months and it’s not really worked out for him," Solskjaer said.

"For him to restart and get himself playing regularly and scoring goals that will only benefit everyone in the end, for us we’re going to watch every weekend to see Romelu and Alexis playing together."

Yet he hasn't played regularly and while injury has played a part in that, the situation is unlikely to change too much now.

The reading between the lines in the summer was that this was the end of Sanchez's career, yet Solskjaer is now hinting at second chances. In which case this has been a wasted season for a 31-year-old who would have played more football for his parent club than he has for his temporary paymasters.

United had no recall option on Sanchez this month, but as they scour Europe for a loan forward to help ease the burden in attack, they have an experienced attacker who is ready to prove everyone wrong. He just can't do it yet.