In The Pulpit: Analysing the Sanchez transfer

Opinion

It must be noted that this article was written on the evening of the 16.01.18. If Sanchez ends up joining Real Madrid or Shrewsbury, disregard the following.

As I’m writing this, United are possibly on the cusp of signing Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan going the other way. A month ago you would have never dreamed that something like this was about to happen. Of course, it still might not, with Jim White saying there was only a 10% chance of the deal going through (show your working, Jim!).

But one question kept floating around my head when I wasn’t being dreadfully excited about Arsenal getting merked again. Is it actually a good signing for United? What does this mean for the future? Will it look as good as I think it’ll look when Pogba feeds Alexis for a cultured dink over a sprawling keeper?

Firstly, is he any good? He’s a two time Copa America winner, two time FA Cup winner and a La Liga winner. It should also be noted that he was a key player for Chile when they won those Copa Americas and obviously is Arsenal’s best player. Last season he got 27 goals and 13 assists for Arsenal, which to be fair to the boy, is a decent return. He’s quick and dynamic, he can score all sorts of goals, beat a man and create chances for others. Some people go as far as saying he’s world class. This year he has been below his lofty standards, but that will likely be due to his depressing circumstances of being trapped at Arsenal. I would be pretty upset if I was him.

This transfer could mirror the one that Sir Alex Ferguson made in 2012, signing the then 29-year-old Robin Van Persie from Arsenal. He inspired Ferguson’s last ever Premier League title, almost single-handedly dragging (what now looks a rather poor) United side to their 20th title. I’m not saying that we’re going to win the league here, don’t be insane. But United would be signing an arguably world class player while he is at the peak of his powers. It’ll certainly help.

So, will he get into the current United XI and where would he play? For me, (Clive), he slots in on the right-hand side of the current 4-2-3-1 formation. Martial and Rashford clearly have talent and as a pair have produced a load of goals and assists from that flank. Despite improving in recent weeks, Juan Mata is not a winger and has often struggled to have an impact on games. Put Sanchez on that side and that attack suddenly looks terrifying. Bags of pace, tonnes of flair and packed full of goals. Plus, there’s the added bonus that they’ll all work hard.

So, is this deal good long term? This is where we get to the point when I start umming and aahing. As has widely been reported, Sanchez is 29. In modern football that could still give you five years at the top level, but so much of Sanchez’s quality stems from his physicality. When that wanes he will be a far less effective player. So United are realistically going to get, what, two to three years out of a top quality Sanchez. Is that enough for the money they’re paying?

I believe it is. In the current market, to secure a player of Sanchez’s quality, even at his age, is likely double what United are reported to be bidding. Taking money out of it, look at the ages likely first choice eleven. Only De Gea (27), Valencia (32) and Matic (29) are over 25. There’s nothing wrong with United injecting a little experience in that first eleven, it just so happens that this guy is very, very good as well.

Normally, whenever United sign a player, I look at the youth team and throw my arms up. ‘Why have we bought this guy? We have an amazing 18 year old who could do just as well!’ Despite there being some really exciting young players in the youth set-up, none of them are ready to step up. Certainly, none of them will improve the current first eleven. In fact, three years from now, when Sanchez is slowing down, might be the perfect time for them to arrive in the first team.

But what about Mkhitaryan? At the start of the season he looked terrific, why are United so content to let him go? Not only that, but let him go to Arsenal (where’s my spittoon?). Well, it’s not really worked out for the Armenian. In patches, we’ve seen he possesses the requisite ability to succeed. The problem is that it’s been in patches. This might be partly down to Mourinho’s management style. Taking risks seems to be prohibited, which for a creative, flair player like Mkhitaryan, will really limit his freedom of expression on the field. Henrikh seems to have taken one too many risks. I have no doubt that he will be far more comfortable at Arsenal and may even succeed there.

So, we’re swapping a world class right winger for a player who’s never quite realised his full potential. We’re making Arsenal look like fools whilst improving our first eleven. There aren’t any young players that Sanchez is keeping out of the team. Our front line now has some added experience to pair with the other, younger attackers. Okay, we’ve had to pay ridiculous amounts of money, but that’s modern football. This looks like a very good deal.

Shame there’s only a 10% chance of it happening.

About the Author

Bob Priestley
Manchester United fan and writer of 'entertaining articles' or 'a collection of words' depending on who you listen to