The talk surrounding Alexis Sanchez’s transfer seemed to go on forever but, with the Chilean officially joining the club earlier this week, supporters can now look forward to seeing him in action.
The question now dominating everybody’s mind is just how Jose Mourinho will use him in his starting XI, and who misses out as a result.
Sanchez himself said upon his unveiling that, while he preferred playing on the left, his main concern is simply being on the pitch and effecting the game. That’s just the player he is.
In the below video, Sam takes a closer look at where Sanchez might fit in at Old Trafford.
The 29-year-old has inflicted most of his damage from the left flank at Arsenal. Remember when he had Matteo Darmian twisting and turning during their 3-0 win back in October 2015? That was horrid to watch.
This is indeed the opinion held by most supporters, but it deserves to be looked at again.
Mata’s lack of speed or strength can occasionally frustrate but the balance he provides in possession, almost like a kind of buffer that allows room for others to thrive, may mean that Mourinho doesn’t combine pace on one flank with pace on another. This is elementary to say but: we’re not playing FIFA here.
That said, Sanchez will receive plenty of time out wide – the position in which he started his career – but Mourinho will be aware of the value he brings down the middle and, crucially, the potential for a superb partnership with Paul Pogba.
Jesse Lingard is in the finest form of his Old Trafford career but if he doesn’t continue to produce the attacking threat seen over the last month then he may see himself unseated by Sanchez.
Another clear option, on the other hand, is at No.9. Romeu Lukaku cannot play every game and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fitness a concern, Mourinho has a superb, proven No.9 to call upon in Sanchez, who netted 30 goals in all competitions.
One thing Sam hasn’t discussed, however, is how he would figure in a back three model. And I believe Mourinho has signed Sanchez with this in mind: a 3-4-1-2 system, seen against the likes of Watford and Arsenal, but with the Chilean in that pocket of space behind Martial and Lukaku. It could make for a devastating front three.
Either way, Sanchez has demonstrated over the years a capacity to thrive in a variety of roles, and if he carries that on at Old Trafford his exact position won’t matter in the slightest.