Despite interest from United, Pep Guardiola may hold the keys to unlocking the Alexis Sanchez signing, writes Ger Deegan.
If reports over the last week are to be believed, then Manchester United have now firmly gone ahead in the race to sign wantaway striker Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. While it has been widely reported for some time that Sanchez has the desire to leave Arsenal in favour of league leaders Manchester City, their bitter rivals are now looking to tempt the Chilean to Old Trafford.
A disastrous mix up of evaluation in the summer between City and Arsenal representatives combined with Arsenal’s failed pursuit of Monaco’s Thomas Lemar, led to a stalemate on the final day of the transfer window. Sanchez would remain in London but by all accounts the deal was not dead and talk was of City returning for his signature January. And so here we are. Almost half way through the window and still Sanchez remains an Arsenal player, his future still in the balance.
Despite Jose Mourinho’s last minute attempt to hijack his move to City, with a reported £25m bid plus Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the table, it remains highly unlikely the player will change his mind on a move he has had his heart on since the arrival of Guardiola to Manchester. While Txiki Begiristain and the hierarchy at City work out the finer details and financial demands, it is Pep Guardiola who holds the key to finalising this deal.
While there is no doubting the quality of either Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, it is Guardiola and the way his team plays that are the main draw for Sanchez. There have been many reports on social media detailing just how much he admires Guardiola’s abilities as a coach and with his rejection of moves to Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich last summer, would lead us to believe that this is the only move Sanchez himself wants.
We tend to forget about the players wishes amongst the constant flux of transfer speculation, and at times this tends to be overlooked. According to numerous reliable sources and of those close to Sanchez, it is a move to the Etihad and a link up with Guardiola that he favours.
After a long summer of talking between the clubs and the eventual break down of the transfer, Sanchez was said to have been distraught that a deal couldn’t be completed in time, while he was away on international duty. Another reason to make us believe he won’t turn his back on being reunited with Guardiola, the man that signed him at Barcelona.
Where would he fit into this City side?
Manchester City’s outstanding run in the Premier League as well as their continued participation in the latter stages of the Champions League, FA and Carabao Cups, have many people wondering why they would need to introduce yet another high profile figure into this so-far all-conquering squad? Yet, this is exactly the reason why. While Guardiola may brush aside talk of a quadruple winning season, we are in January and it is still on the cards.
City are now at a level that means they can and will compete on all fronts. They have built a squad capable of winning any competition they enter and the signing of a player with the quality of Sanchez, can only enhance their chances.
The injury to Gabriel Jesus vs Crystal Palace on new year’s eve means that they are without the Brazilian for at least a couple of months, leaving Sergio Aguero as the only natural centre forward fit at the club. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have shown that they can play in this role when called upon but with Sanchez they have a ready-made replacement who can play in any position along their attack. To be able to realistically get someone who knows Guardiola’s system and has the quality to adapt as the Chilean can, for the cut price of £20-£30m is a no brainer.
His skill with the ball at his feet and with the creativity he possesses means he will slot effortlessly into this team. With the endless movement of runners off the ball at his disposal and his ability to score a goal, it could quite literally be a match made in heaven should it happen.
Chance of silverware
If Sanchez does decide that City is where he wants to continue his career, then in all likelihood he will be picking up a Premier League winners medal for the first time come May. City are currently 15 points clear at the top of the league ahead of their trip to Anfield this Sunday and yet to suffer a defeat domestically.
Although he has featured for Arsenal in the Europa League already this season this doesn’t mean he would be cup-tied in City’s Champions League campaign should he make the move. According to UEFA rules one player who has already represented another club in the group stages of the Europa League is eligible to play in the knockout stages as long as they are registered with their new club before the February 1st updating of squads.
This would mean Sanchez could feature in the latter stages of the Champions League as well as the FA Cup. Arsenals shock defeat to Nottingham Forest in their first appearance of this seasons competition came without some of their biggest names being featured in the squad, Sanchez included. The early exit for the Gunners means that he would also be eligible to play for City in this competition.
City look on course to reach their first final of the season ahead of their second leg tie against Bristol City in the Carabao Cup, although Sanchez would miss out on a chance at his first trophy at the club were they to go on and lift it. He’s featured for Arsenal already in this year’s tournament and had what looked to be a farewell cameo vs Chelsea on Wednesday.
Why not United?
It may seem foolish of me to write an article on Sanchez’s move to City, on the day that United have actively made a bid for the player, but I just can’t see it happening. All the signs leading up to this point have been directed at him heading towards Eastlands and no amount of Jose Mourinho hard balling will make me think otherwise.
When you factor in the continuous rumours out of the Sanchez camp on his desire to play for City, the instant chance of picking up an elusive league title and the style in which he plays, it all points to one destination.
Unfortunately for United fans this feels like somewhat of a desperate attempt to stop their main rivals from acquiring a player of Sanchez’s supreme talent and to appease some doubts their own supporters may have at this moment in time. Perhaps a smokescreen to frazzle the mind of a player while giving themselves some wiggle room or an excuse to turn around and say – “well…we did try”.
Aside from this, City are currently far and away the more attractive brand and offer a project more appealing than United, while being able to match them financially. Unlike the past number of decades it is now a level playing field and there has been a genuine shift of power in Manchester.
As pragmatic as a coach that Mourinho is, this can also hinder him when trying to sign players. His tactical strategy that we have now come a custom to, means that he has absolutely no problem whatsoever focussing on shutting the opposition out to the detriment of some of his attacking players. We only have to look at his track record in recent years and can see that his unwillingness to evolve has caused the more attacking or flair players to suffer. Juan Mata and Eden Hazard’s form under the Portuguese coach at Chelsea dipped significantly which led him to selling the former and falling out with the latter. This season, Mkhitaryan has been a shell of the player who lit up the Bundesliga and has now even been mentioned as a makeweight in a potential deal for Sanchez.
This wouldn’t fill a player in a similar mould to all of the above full of confidence ahead of a move to Old Trafford and is why it is hard to see a U-turn from Sanchez at this point. It would be an incredible coup for United if they can pull it off, however it is the blue half of Manchester that seems the more practical choice.
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