The arrival of Alexis Sánchez was a welcome sight for Manchester United fans. Ed Woodward and José Mourinho were willing and able to set up a straight swap with Arsenal, exchanging midfield playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Alexis. Though Manchester City were initially linked with a move for the former Gunner, they dropped out of the race shortly after United made their move.
The Gunners appear to be recalibrating their squad after failing to compete consistently in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Alexis wanted to play on a winning team and United’s squad promises the Chilean forward maestro a chance to win silverware beyond what Arsenal could offer. City have obviously been the more prolific team in the league, but Alexis couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play for what he implied is his dream club.
Mourinho’s men haven’t been up to the chase so far, but are the team in the best position to challenge City for the Premier League, they are through to the knockout round of the Champions League, and face Yeovil Town in the next round of the FA Cup, a game where the new number 7 could make his debut.
Where exactly will Alexis play though?
He featured most prominently as a winger in his time at both Barcelona and Arsenal, playing on both the left and right side. However, the left is unlikely considering the impressive form Anthony Martial is currently in as a left winger, and Mourinho has been more experimental on the right, where Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, and recently departed Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all played.
Lingard, another player in dazzling form, has played brilliantly in the number 10 role in the center of the park. With Alexis on the right United’s attack will be expected to be even more ruthless in front of goal, and could see the side’s offensive pace increase immensely.
Placing Alexis on the right could just be a simple fix for setting a lineup on paper, whereas once the whistle blows he may be given freedom to attack how he sees fit.
Martial, Lingard, and Alexis are players who have experience playing multiple roles successfully. Why not allow them to move between positions to follow the flow of the game? It could be a potential solution to the stagnant attacking play that has plagued the Reds at times this season.
United’s attack has stalled out in past games due to lack of creativity in link up play, something that has killed counter attacks and further cut off Romelu Lukaku from midfield distribution. Playing the second line of attack interchangeably could create more space in the opponent’s half by moving defenders around.
It could also improve the chances of scoring on a counter attack. Martial, Lingard, and Alexis each possess blistering speed. The same can be said about Marcus Rashford, a player who has also impressed on the wings this season.
Alexis could make his debut against Yeovil Town in the 4th round of the FA Cup, a competition where he often performs exceptionally. The Glovers expect a strong United side, Mourinho does not often play a weak side in cup competitions, and it is a great opportunity to experiment with the squad following the superstar’s arrival.
Though Pep Guardiola has whined to the press about the club’s reasons for pulling out, citing financial concerns and logistics, the football world should not believe these excuses for a second. City have immediately begun pursuits of other players, such as Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred.
Let’s be clear on one thing: Alexis chose United over City. Alexis makes the Reds a much more competitive team, and the new signing expects big things ahead of him at Old Trafford.