Since last summer, Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester City appeared to be a done deal. Sanchez had reportedly been open to extending his contract at Arsenal before the humiliation against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. He was caught on camera smirking on the bench and decided his future wasn’t at the Emirates.
City had a deal of £50m rejected last summer and instead of getting the transfer wrapped up then, decided to play the long game, knowing that the asking price would dramatically decrease by January, while they still had the option of getting him for nothing the following summer.
The player wanted to move to City and he wanted to play for Pep Guardiola, so they had little reason to rush the transfer through.
However, reports are now suggesting that United are the favourites to sign the player. City are apparently unprepared to meet the £35m asking price while Ed Woodward has sanctioned the move. In today’s market, with Philippe Coutinho moving for £142m last week, £35m for a player of Sanchez’s quality would be a steal.
Of course, the context is not identical, with Sanchez turning 29 last month and being in the final year of his contract, but landing a player as good as Sanchez regardless of the situation for such a small fee would be incredible business.
United have done this before, when spending £24m on a 29-year-old Robin van Persie in the summer of 2012. “It was a lot of money for a player in the last year of his contract,” Ferguson said. “But the thing about it is, you either want him or you don’t. You have to pay the price that the club are sticking out for, whether it is one year on his contract, two or three. We wanted him badly, so we were prepared to go the extra mile.”
Arsenal fans will have had some time to deal with the fact that their best player is leaving them again but it likely won’t sit well to see him come to United. Robin van Persie left them and won us the league. They won’t want to see anything like that happen again.
But the club may be more likely to want to deal with United than City as Henrikh Mkhitaryan is reportedly available as part of a swap deal. In his press conference on Friday, Jose Mourinho conceded that every player had a price when asked specifically about the Armenian. What this would mean in terms of the actual transfer fee paid for Sanchez is unknown. But Arsene Wenger would be happy to bring in a player who clearly has the potential to do well, if his first month of this season is anything to go by.
It hasn’t worked out for Mkhitaryan at United, despite him ending last season by scoring a goal in the Europa League final, and he may well appreciate the opportunity of having the greater freedom that playing in a Wenger team would allow him.
It’s not just Arsenal who United need to impress though. The player is the far more important piece of this puzzle. He had his heart set on City in the summer so you have to wonder what could change to persuade him to come to United.
He was on the losing team at the Emirates a few weeks ago when United beat them 3-1. He saw Jesse Lingard steal the show, knowing he should be playing for a team where he could do the same.
United’s players are the best paid in the Premier League, so it would be foolish to suggest that money wouldn’t play a part. City could, of course, match anything that United were prepared to pay him, but there’s less pressure on them to do that. Neither team really needs Sanchez, or at least for United, there are more pressing needs, but both want him, so the player can make a decision on who wants him the most depending on how much they are prepared to pay him.
United could likely offer him more playing time than City could too, with them currently boasting the best attacking line in the league. Mourinho could give Sanchez far more assurances about how many minutes he would have on the pitch and he would have a greater chance of being the star player at Old Trafford than at the Etihad, if that’s something that matters to him.
When it comes to silverware, it’s likely he will win trophies at both clubs. Guardiola and Mourinho are pros when it comes to winning. His chances of winning the top two prizes, the Premier League and Champions League, for this season at least, are obviously much higher with City though. He would pick up a league winner’s medal in May and it might matter little to him that he had nothing to do with earning it, as long as he gets to wear it around his neck. He’s already won two FA Cups with Arsenal so his eye will be on the top trophies now.
United obviously are not anything like close to being favourites to win the Champions League and it would be a gamble for Sanchez to join us with the hope of winning that this season. He isn’t cup-tied though, following Arsenal’s failure to qualify this season. Just getting to play in the competition is a pull we can offer, thanks to our Europa League victory last season.
It’s worth remembering that Mourinho has won the competition twice before and on both occasions it was with a team that wouldn’t have been considered anything close to the best side in Europe. With the league title gone, Mourinho can prioritise success in the Champions League, although he would obviously need favourable draws and considerable luck if we were to get anywhere close to winning it.
Regardless, Sanchez was left out of Arsenal’s squad to play Bournemouth this afternoon, so it looks likely he will be on the move this transfer window. It seemed inconceivable even a week ago that he would be going anywhere but City. But it appears as though there is a genuine possibility he could be joining us instead. After Arsenal’s defeat against Bournemouth, Arsene Wenger confirmed the decision would be made within the next 48 hours. Watch this space.