Monday night’s confirmation that Alexis Sanchez has put pen to paper on a four and a half year deal at Manchester United was met with an unsurprising deluge of hatred and vitriol towards the player and his new club. Par for the course some might say. The welcome addition of a world-class talent to United’s squad wasn’t easy to swallow for the rest of the football community though, especially with everybody expecting the Chilean forward to reunite with Pep Guardiola at one of Greater Manchester’s lesser clubs. United blew that out of the water and the now former Arsenal player should make his début at Yeovil on Friday night.
That Sanchez would naturally want to join Guardiola at City was taken for granted, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. After all, the City manager has openly discussed retirement, and could well leave England at the end of next season. Meanwhile, there is no denying United’s greater standing in Sanchez’ native Chile, a proud footballing nation where virtually everyone cares about football and many support the red side of Manchester. To those who support United, the club is simply “Manchester.”
"A lot of the Sanchez wage information has come from sources connected to Manchester City, so we have to treat it with a little bit of scepticism."James Cooper, Sky Sports
City has some work to do in order to trump United’s mystique, romance and global popularity. Behind the scenes, the Citizens are seething at having lost out on a player that the club’s hierarchy genuinely thought would join the Blues last summer or next. Indeed, to save face, it is now emerging that the Blue side of Manchester has been leaking rumours that Sanchez is earning “twice the salary of Paul Pogba” – hence the outrageous claims that United’s new acquisition is a “mercenary.”
Sky Sports reporter James Cooper revealed this week that “a lot of the Sanchez wage information has come from sources connected to Manchester City, so we have to treat it with a little bit of scepticism.” In truth, Sanchez might earn a basic salary that is less than that of Guardiola at City, and perhaps Pogba too. Not that it would be in keeping to criticise Guardiola’s deity as a “mercenary” too!
Perhaps the acquisition has City rattled, with the Guardian’s chief football writer Danny Taylor arguing that United “have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to Manchester City but, if Sánchez had opted to join their neighbours it would have been difficult to see any way Mourinho could restore a bit more balance in England’s leading football city.” Perhaps now, he has.
The debate rarely seemed to extend beyond Sanchez’ wages and to a far simpler explanation: City still cannot compete with the lure of United. Especially because Sanchez is a United fan.
“Being the first Chilean to play for United’s first team is something that means a lot to me. Like I always say, playing for Manchester United is like a dream come true,” Alexis said this week. He wasn’t lying.
Moreover, this is Guardiola’s second season in England, and despite his club having prepared for the Catalan’s arrival for four years, having spent hundreds of millions in the process – he hasn’t yet delivered a trophy. By contrast, José Mourinho inherited an imbalanced squad following Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal and secured two trophies in his first season.
Others doubt whether the money on offer to Sanchez played that much of a part, with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp noting that he “couldn’t imagine that Manchester City would leave the race because of money!”
Meanwhile, ESPN journalist Alex Shaw added that City had failed to meet Arsenal’s demands in any case. “It hasn’t even got to the point whereby Sanchez has two simple choices, having been given permission to speak to both clubs,” wrote Shaw. “United are prepared to pay what Arsenal want, and Manchester City are not.”
Sanchez’ former manager, Arsene Wenger, added that he respects United “because they generate the money they pay to the players from their own resources. You have to respect that.” A not-so-sly dig at Abu Dhabi funded City.
Whatever the cost, Sanchez is worth every penny. The Chilean has been directly involved in 33 per cent of all of Arsenal’s goals since he arrived in North London. And he can, of course, command a hefty salary as there is no fee to be paid to his former club. Mourinho’s squad will enjoy a lift from this transfer, as the manager seeks silverware in Europe and the FA Cup, while the Premier League is City’s to lose.
“Manchester United signing Alexis Sanchez is similar to Robin van Persie in the sense that they’re getting a ready-made superstar and you’re seeing the contribution already with Anthony Martial upping his performances,” said Wales manager Ryan Giggs this week.
Legendary United captain Roy Keane says that the reason players pick themselves up when a marquee signing arrives is because everyone wants to impress the new guy. Sanchez might just be one of the last pieces in the puzzle Mourinho needs in order to compete on all fronts, and his squad is already responding.
"Obviously he’s a phenomenal player. One of the best in the world. We’ve already seen his quality in training and some of the things he’s done is a joke."Luke Shaw
“It was quite surprising at the start because obviously he wasn’t linked with us at all and everything moved really quickly,” defender Luke Shaw said this week. “Obviously he’s a phenomenal player. One of the best in the world. The quality he’ll bring to the side will surely boost our attacking threat. We’ve already seen his quality in training and some of the things he’s done is a joke.”
The new recruit can play across all forward positions, brings energy, tempo, and match-winning characteristics to the team. He’ll add some much needed steel, grit and fighting spirit too.
Another central midfielder will surely arrive this summer, and some cover at full-back might too. The antipathy felt towards United this week is a tell-tale sign that the club is going in the right direction. Sanchez will speed up the process. Expect the anger to grow.