Alexis Sanchez: What will the big money forward bring to Manchester United?
After a lengthy transfer saga that seemed to last months, Alexis Sanchez finally left Arsenal last week, and signed for Manchester United. The deal, a straight swap, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving in the opposite direction to north London, gives Sanchez some heavyweight financial benefits, and could see United’s shirt sales in Chile increase significantly.
What will Sanchez actually bring to Jose Mourinho’s team?
Well, before we answer that, it might be better to start with what position he will actually play in the team. Anthony Martial seems to have the left wing spot nailed down at United, while Romelu Lukaku remains Mourinho’s main man at centre forward. That would seem to open up a spot for Sanchez on the right wing, a position currently held by Juan Mata. Sanchez played there for Udinese earlier in his career. Mata has been playing reasonably well this season, but Sanchez has shown good form in that position in the past.
Another option is the number 10 role, just behind main striker Lukaku. Playing there would undoubtedly boost United’s creativity, having created 183 chances from open play in the last three seasons. Only Mesut Ozil and Christian Eriksen have created more.
Sanchez can also play up front, should the need arise, which gives Mourinho the option to rest Lukaku, something that that he has not been able to do very often this season, given the Red Devils’ lack of outright striking options. That will take some of the burden off the Belgian’s shoulders, and will help to keep him fresh for some of the real big clashes that are set to come before the end of the season.
Sanchez bagged 30 goals last season as the Gunners’ main striker, and he can quite easily step into that role when required for United. Crucially, Sanchez is also not cup-tied for the Champions League, meaning that he can be an influential member of the squad in Europe too, as the business end of the season approaches. So those are the positives, the real benefits that this deal can bring to United.
But what about the negatives?
Well, Sanchez is certainly not a player known for his tracking back, or his work rate when his team are not in possession. It is also telling, perhaps, that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger appeared relieved to be rid of the player when speaking to reporters this week, after a lengthy and disruptive transfer saga. "We lost a great player," the Gunners boss told Sky Sports. "But when a team doesn’t know what’s going on there is less clarity and less focus on what’s important – the performance."
Sanchez has been putting his own career ahead of team performances all season, which suggests a troubling tendency towards solipsism and selfishness, which does not tend to go down well with a coach like Jose Mourinho. But if United can rein in those selfish tendencies, and get Sanchez on the field in the right position, then he will undoubtedly bring chances and goals to the team.