The assumption throughout Alexis Sanchez’s contractual standoff at Arsenal, and for the last year, was that the Chilean forward was just itching to get back playing under former boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
However, the situation may have changed.
Inter-city rivals Manchester United have reportedly stolen in for the Arsenal man, offering £25m – that’s £5m more than City – for his services, according to The Guardian. The same report stipulated Henrikh Mkhitaryan could act as a makeweight in such a deal.
And so with Sanchez in hot-demand and everyone (including Arsenal) keen to win his attention, and while we wait to hear the player’s final decision, here’s the winners and losers of the potential Sanchez move to the red side of Manchester.
So, the deal’s done, Sanchez has gone to Manchester, taken the tests at Carrington and held the shirt up by the outside pitches. An obvious winner, in that case, is United. There’s no doubt about it.
They’ve done two things with this transfer: United have clearly strengthened their own squad, don’t let the ‘plays when he wants’ inconsistency of this season obscure the image of a world-class footballer; and in the same action, they’ve weakened two competitors.
They’ve weakened Arsenal, that’s a given, he’s simply too good a player not to miss. Though even the most ArsenalFanTV of Arsenal fans would be glad to see the back of him if he’s decided he doesn’t want to play for the club anymore. They’ve also disrupted City’s over-the-top, gratuitous march toward all-out supremacy.
City are clearly going to win the league, and at least one but probably more cups; the addition of Sanchez wasn’t strictly necessary for City, it wouldn’t have pushed them over the edge toward glory seeing as they’re already assured lots of it. He might have just helped in the Champions League seeing as that’s the only competition City can’t claim total confidence in.
United have spoiled City’s stockpiling of the league’s best players, and in claiming Sanchez, have also increased their own chance of silverware.
Mkhitaryan is still basically a good player with great technique, but he keeps committing errors and giving in ragged performances for United.
The issue is then compounded when Jose Mourinho sacrifices him for the good of the team, hurting the confidence of someone who looks to be a confidence player.
It seems that, for the sake of his own form, a move in the opposite direction to north London might be exactly what’s needed for the Armenian to rekindle the form he showed for Borussia Dortmund in the 2015-16 season, where he scored 23 goals in 52 appearances.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has now been involved in 6 Premier League goals this season; more than any other Man Utd player.
5 assists 🅰️
1 goal ⚽ pic.twitter.com/Yqnuox7UcK
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 17, 2017
He’s certainly capable of it in the Premier League. He started the season with five assists in his first three appearances for the Reds, before falling away badly.
City’s current wingers
City are obviously flying under Pep and it would seem unfair if any of their wingers suddenly found their playing-time reduced after the arrival of Sanchez.
Raheem Sterling has 14 league goals for City in 20 appearances, a seriously impressive haul the more you think about it, and Leroy Sané has notched nine assists, the joint-highest in the league.
With Sanchez gone to United, young, talented players like Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané will continue to see the bountiful game time they currently see, and so will continue to improve.
The legacy of the Man Utd No.7 shirt
The United No.7 shirt used to command a certain kind of reverence, it was, like the Brazil No.10 shirt or, say, the Italy No.5 shirt. Cantona, Best, Beckham and Ronaldo among others ensured the shirt’s fame, but the recent wearers have been a bit, well, yeah.
Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia, Di Maria and Depay are just some of the previous incumbents, none of whom exactly set the world alight while wearing the shirt.
With the capture of Sanchez, the United No.7 will at last have someone wearing it with some quality in common with those greats of the past.
In very simple terms, with this move, Mourinho proves he is still Box Office and can attract the best.
Lots of commentators have liked writing the Portuguese manager off, saying his star is on the wane, but this transfer would prove he can still sell his vision, and that the old spoiler instincts are alive and well in Jose.
There is no getting around the fact City are a loser in this scenario, they have been bested by their local rivals to a player everyone in the country knows they wanted.
Though not essential, Sanchez would have offered the Citizens something different, great match-winning/game-changing potential which would have come in handy especially in the latter-part of the Champions League.
Pep also loses a player who already knew his methods and his demands, having worked together at Barcelona, who would not have needed a period to acclimatise.
Much like there’s no way you can sell City as anything other than a loser, you also can never imagine a world in which this is what Wenger actually wanted.
The animosity between Wenger and Mourinho over the years has always bubbled under the surface, Mourinho once calling Wenger a “specialist in failure” when at Chelsea.
The truth is they seem to clash less now because Arsenal no longer challenge for titles, but it’s safe to say they’re not on friendly terms and Wenger would have preferred losing Sanchez to Pep, a more agreeable character and a team in City who are seemingly so dominant that they have no bearing on Arsenal, just an otherworldly project going on at the top of the table.
United’s young attacking talent
A lot of what’s positive and innately United about this current crop is the plentiful young talent amongst its forward-thinking players.
Marcus Rashford has been a breakout star at the club since his debut in the 2015/16 season; so evident is his talent it can be easy to forget he’s only 20, and therefore is deserving of a lot of patience and dips in form are to be expected.
Jesse Lingard meanwhile has taken himself from a squad player needing to prove himself – most likely given the benefit of the doubt thanks to his nationality and his being a club product – to being a genuine match-winner, and a consistent one at that.
Anthony Martial started the season strongly as United kept steamrolling teams, often coming from the bench to finish excellent moves. He’s got seven in 20 appearances, which is pretty good considering he often plays on the wing.
The place and minutes of all of these players in the starting 11, if they were starting at all, would be under threat with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez.
Going to United is no failure, and it is still one of the biggest clubs in the world even if it’s not a ‘big team’, according to Jose Mourinho via The Guardian, but it seems fair to assume Sanchez will be slightly less assured of silverware at Old Trafford than he would have been at the Etihad.
That’s because this City seems to be conquering all before it in a way not really seen before in the Premier League-era. The Invincibles ultimately won the league by 11 points but didn’t win any other silverware that season. This City team will at least win two and quite likely three trophies.
But, as much as that might be true, such is Sanchez’s quality that he brings the chance of United winning major honours up two or three notches. Just a few off City then.