The January transfer window was a golden opportunity for Manchester United to snatch quality talent and bolster the midfield and attacking forefront going into the final stretch of the season. I think we can all agree that Alexis Sánchez is a world class talent who was desperately searching for a new home away from Arsenal. With Manchester City hesitating on the purchase of Sánchez, United was able to swap Henrikh Mkhitaryan in exchange for the Chilean international.
In theory, this swap deal with the Gunners seemed like a great move for United, but was it the best possible move they could have made in the transfer window? Don’t get me wrong, Sánchez has been, and still is, one of the best players in the Premier league, and arguably in the world. He is a menace for defenders and can punish the opposition when he is in form. However, with that being said, a winger is the last thing José Mourinho needed in the January window. Without further ado, let’s go over the midfield and attacking problems that United now face with the signing of Sánchez.
Zlatan Ibrahimović still hasn’t been able to be a reliable source of goals off the bench due to previously being injured and inconsistency. Now, reports are linking him with a move to Major League Soccer in the United States with LA Galaxy. Romelu Lukaku has been carrying the load up top and has been playing a surplus of minutes this season. Mourinho didn’t make any moves for a striking partner to reinforce the Belgian up top.
The midfield is arguably the biggest area of concern for United going forward. Where do I begin… Carrick is on the verge of retirement. Pogba is heavily over-relied on to be the man of the match every game, so when he doesn’t perform well the whole midfield suffers. Matić is unusually inconsistent this season and has suffered a dip in form recently. Herrera has not gotten enough playtime to have a big impact or gain consistency. Fellaini’s recent injury has only made the midfield issue worse. Not to mention, Mourinho is putting a lot of pressure on the young Scott McTominay to step up in the midfield.
There is still not a true number 10 player that has emerged this season, and we all thought that United would go after a world class player like Paulo Dybala or Gareth Bale to fill that role. Given the fact that Lukaku thrives on hold-up play up top, a January singing for a new number 10 role would have been ideal to play under the Belgian.
However, the midfield does have one player that can fill the number 10 role, even after the January window has closed. Juan Mata has been in superb form recently, and a few days ago, signed a new contract extension of one more year with the club. His passing and vision have created many chances on the attacking side of play for United. Ideally, with the signing of Sánchez, it makes sense for Mourinho to play Mata in his natural number 10 role going forward.
The Sánchez signing also creates a dilemma of playtime for Rashford, Lingard, and Martial going forward. All three of these young wingers have been playing well lately, especially Lingard. Alexis Sánchez can completely disrupt their consistency and playstyle with his name on the team sheet. If Mourinho is going to start Sánchez on the team sheet, he will need to take away minutes from the talented young wingers which could ultimately hurt United as a team going forward.
Sánchez is a world class player without question, but his signing does not suit any of Mourinho’s needs for the remainder of the campaign. By not strengthening the midfield during the transfer window, United could face difficulties with attacking play the rest of the season.