Some people describe Alexis Sanchez as the worst transfer deal Manchester United have ever done. While he didn’t cost a fee, given his move was an exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, his salary was enormous.
Injury prone, ineffective and wages that were unsettling for players who outperformed him, it’s hard to think of many positives to his signing. However, there was one day, in April 2018, when he managed to avoid one of the most embarrassing day’s for the club being written in the history books. With United 2-0 down at the Etihad, Manchester City were just 45 minutes away from claiming the league title after a win over United, something neither club had achieved before on derby day (although United were just a day out in 2007).
Eight minutes after the restart, a lovely bit of skill from Sanchez saw him break free of his marker, cross the ball in to Ander Herrera to chest down, before Paul Pogba scored. Two minutes later, Sanchez played in a delightful ball over the top, perfectly reaching Pogba’s head, as he made it 2-2. Then, with 20 minutes left to play, Sanchez delivered a fantastic freekick which Chris Smalling put in the back of the net.
City didn’t get to reveal their ‘we did it on derby day’ t-shirts and the fireworks they had on the roof of the Etihad to be taken down.
All in all, Sanchez was a poor signing, and that day in 2018 is long gone, but it would have forever been in the memory if not for his intervention.
Speaking with newspaper La Tercera, Sanchez has explained how close he was to joining Manchester City before a last minute phone call from Jose Mourinho changed his mind.
I was about to go to City. I spoke to Guardiola every day, he told me happy birthday. He was like my dad. He was my dad at Barcelona and he was like my dad at City. We talked, we talked every day, he sent me messages. And everything was ready, there was a player who was going to go to Arsenal. Then Wenger tells me you are not leaving because the other player did not want to come and they do not have another.
Suddenly the cell phone rings. Mourinho tells me: ‘Alexis, here is the seven available for you.’
It wasn’t a money thing, so everyone knows. It was the same with United and City. And he said to me here is the seven, we are playing in the Champions League and we are going to give everything. I wanted to leave at that moment, but I had Guardiola’s word.
That’s when I said to myself, Chilean footballer playing for Manchester United, something that has never happened. With the seven of Cantona, Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and now a Chilean had it, it was a dream.