Manchester United’s swoop for Alexis Sanchez is undoubtedly one of the most impressive deals the Premier League has seen in a January transfer window, but that’s not to say it hasn’t created a few headaches for Jose Mourinho – chiefly, where to fit the former Arsenal attacker in the starting XI and who to sacrifice as a consequence.
Versatile and capable of being scorer or provider to talismanic proportions, there are plenty of different schools of thought with valid arguments for and against them. Football FanCast outline four potential solutions and then ask our readers to cast the deciding vote.
Sanchez was at his most effective for Arsenal from the left-hand side, where he can cut in on his favoured right foot, and it appears to be the Chilean’s favoured position. United certainly need a lift of quality between their midfield and front-line as well, which they’ve desperately lacked at times this season, and that would allow Sanchez to neatly fit into Mourinho’s usual 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 setups.
However, that would also mean sacrificing Anthony Martial who has really grown into the left-sided role of late with three goals and two assists in his last four appearances across all competitions. Regardless of Sanchez’s abilities, United fans will be disappointed to see his arrival block a youngster’s path to regular first-team football.
While Sanchez isn’t considered a natural No.10, there’s an understandable excitement in him playing just behind Romelu Lukaku as a support striker – and it could suit him now that he’s 29 years of age. His pace won’t be as important in the central role and it will allow Sanchez to provide the Belgium international the support he’s desperately lacked at times this season, reaping the benefits of Lukaku’s hold-up play.
But that could well force Jesse Lingard out of the team, or at the very least push him out of the position that has seen him thrive in recent weeks. The 24-year-old isn’t a world-beater but his goals and energy have become of vital importance to this Red Devils side.
Perhaps the most obvious solution as Juan Mata has continually drifted in and out of the starting XI throughout his time at Old Trafford and particularly since Mourinho took the helm. The Spaniard isn’t a natural right winger anyway – he’s always lacked the explosive dynamism for that role – and it could be argued his contributions have taken a significant downturn this season with just three goals and three assists in the top flight.
However, the 41-cap international does bring something unique to United’s midfield through his creativity, technical quality and vision, and the fact he’s not a powerful or quick winger-forward of the Sanchez, Martial and Lingard mould provides a sense of balance that could be of pivotal importance against opponents who don’t allow the room to counter.
Lukaku was United’s most expensive signing of the summer but he’s received mixed reviews during his first season at Old Trafford and has only actually scored seven goals in all competitions since the end of September. Furthermore, during Sanchez’s outings as a centre-forward, his returns have been nothing short of lethal – 21 goals and 12 assists in 37 appearances there for the Gunners.
He’d still offer penetration in attack but a powerful centre-forward who holds up the ball is a huge part of Mourinho’s game-plan, especially against high-quality opposition, and it would be a monumental waste of money to demote Lukaku to the bench after just half a season – Transfermarkt still value him at £76.5million.
So, United fans, who would you drop to make room for Sanchez? Have your say by voting below…
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