The superb form of Alexis Sanchez has been the one shining light in an otherwise dismal season for Arsenal, and he is understandably attracting admiring glances from rival clubs. Parallels can be drawn between the Chilean forward and the last man to score more than 20 league goals in a season for the Gunners, Rob van Persie, who was named PFA Player of the Year for his goal scoring exploits in 2011-12. The Dutchman grew frustrated with Arsenal’s inability to compete for the Premiership title and defected to Man Utd, and Sanchez could now follow suit.
In 2012-13 van Persie was a revelation at Old Trafford, firing them to the title after forming a magnificent partnership with Wayne Rooney. Now, with Rooney on his last legs and Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck down by a long-term injury, Man Utd legend Ryan Giggs is urging the club to break the bank to sign Sanchez to provide some much-needed firepower. Man Utd have finished the campaign in sixth, despite spending north of £150 million last summer to bolster the squad, and a lack of goals has been the problem. Jose Mourinho’s side have drawn more games than any other Premiership team, and in most of those games they were dominant but failed to convert their supremacy into goals.
Finding the back of the net is what Sanchez does best. Despite spending half the season on the wing, he has outscored virtually all his peers, finishing above the likes of Ibrahimovic, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa in the goal scoring charts. He has a great eye for goal, his movement is sharp and his determination is exemplary. He is the one Arsenal player that would walk into any team in the league. Perhaps only Eden Hazard can rival him in terms of wreaking havoc from wide areas, but Sanchez has proved himself more deadly in front of goal.
Despite his phenomenal form, Sanchez has cut a frustrated figure at The Emirates for large chunks of the season. He has been furious at teammates’ inability to find him with simple passes, sulked when substituted and cowered in embarrassment as Arsenal lost 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich.
With just one year remaining on his contract, Sanchez – like van Persie before him – can agitate for a summer move and probably get it. Arsenal are in a much healthier financial position now than they were in 2012, but they would not wish to see him leave for nothing next summer when they could reasonably expect to earn around £40 million from his sale in the coming months. If he decides to go, they would prefer to sell him abroad, with Bayern and PSG known admirers. But Premiership clubs will be desperate to sign him. Finding somebody guaranteed to score goals in the Premier League is an extremely challenging endeavour, and the top clubs would know they are getting a ferocious attacking talent that would slot straight into their teams and win them games.
If Man Utd want to sign him, they will need to fight off fierce competition, notably from Chelsea and Man City. They will also need to beat Ajax in the Europa League final. Sanchez will have no desire to move to a team that is not playing Champions League football next season. Mourinho’s men have finished outside the top four, but they have an opportunity to earn a place at Europe’s top table for 2017/18 by winning the Europa League. They face an exciting but inexperienced Ajax team and should be able to get the job done, and they are odds-on favourites to win it, but Mourinho faces the added pressure of knowing his ability to sign world-class stars like Sanchez in the summer depends upon them lifting the trophy.
There is no doubt that Sanchez would improve Man Utd. His battling nature, stamina, ability to press and his attacking efficiency would make him the perfect Mourinho signing. His great Chelsea teams were based on a strong defensive core, but they also won titles due to exciting wide players like Arjen Robben and Hazard. Bookmakers have made Man Utd second favourites to win the title next season and that is on the assumption that Mourinho gets his chequebook out. Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba have won them points singlehandedly this season, and more big signings are expected. They have also been linked with James Rodriguez and Antoine Griezmann, so there is every reason for fans to look forward to an exciting summer and an improved squad for next season.
Martin Green is an experienced sports writer, covering a range of sports from across the world, with a particular focus on sports betting. He has been writing about the Premiership for many years.