Over a quarter of a century ago talisman Eric Cantona signed for Manchester United and sparked their first title win in twenty-five years. 1992/93 was the first season of the new Premier League, where there was no transfer window and the Bosman rule did not exist. The latter has played a key role in Manchester United being able to sign Alexis Sanchez, as this summer he would have been able to leave Arsenal for free, but the temptation of Henrik Mkhitaryan provided too much for Arsenal to resist. This swap deal could have the same implications for the Jose Mourinho era as Eric Cantona did on the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
The scenario is quite similar, a league title drought (in relative terms) and some promising youngsters in Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay. While there isn’t the depth of the class of 92, only Ryan Giggs was a regular starter during that first Premier League campaign, there are still high hopes of talents such as Angel Gomes within the academy. Should Jose Mourinho have faith in these talented youngsters, then Alexis Sanchez could be the talisman to lead them and follow in the footsteps of Old Trafford Icon Eric Cantona.
Eric Cantona made 156 appearances scoring 70 goals and making 56 assists. After joining in November 1992 he scored 15 and assisted 16 as the title was clinched. While Alexis Sanchez might not have the immediate impact that Eric Cantona had, with Manchester City running away with the title, there is still potential to have a similar impact in the medium term.
Alongside his goals and assists Eric Cantona revolutionised the way Manchester United played making the number 10 role fashionable, with Arsenal following suit with Dennis Bergkamp and Chelsea with Gianfranco Zola. Manchester United are known for out and out wingers and even Cristiano Ronaldo moved more centrally as the Premier League and Champions League double was won in 2008. Although, Alexis Sanchez could provide a similar impact, with his inside forward, role that proved so successful under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.
Adapting to a new way of playing may take time and the initial indicators of 1 goal in 6 Premier League games does not make for the most impressive reading. However, Jose Mourinho could finalise the pieces of the jigsaw in the summer with potential signings of Gareth Bale or Antoine Griezmann on the opposite flanks. This would complete a tactical revolution of overlapping full backs creating width through Antonio Valencia and dare we say a rejuvenated Luke Shaw, with goal scoring inside forwards in Alexis Sanchez and one other.
While the early indications of Alexis Sanchez’s role at Manchester United has been less than impressive, the foundations for a tactical revolution under Jose Mourinho have been set and Alexis Sanchez will be at the front of it.