Peter Schmeichel believes Manchester United must prioritise the Premier League this season – even if it comes at the expense of winning trophies.
Second-place United have little chance of lifting the domestic title this season due to runaway leaders Manchester City, who are 15 points clear of their neighbours at the top.
Jose Mourinho’s side won both the Europa League and EFL Cup last term and can still go for glory in the FA Cup and Champions League, with the last-16 tie against Sevilla looming.
However, Schmeichel insists United must pour all their energy into cracking the top four – they are currently six points ahead of fifth-place Tottenham – after finishing down in sixth last season.
“The key is improvement, success has got to be a better league position than last season,” the Dane told Sport360. “I know United won the League Cup and the Europa League but you have to separate those out.
“Yes they’re trophies and they’re nice to have, but for me success has to be a better league position. We’re going well in the Champions League as well so let’s see what happens there as well.”
United have not looked close to winning the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and former goalkeeper Schmeichel admits the club are still feeling the aftershocks of his departure.
“We’re still catching up and rebuilding, which is not easy in this current footballing climate when everyone has a huge amount of money to spend,” he added.
“Manchester United is going in the right direction though as it was two very important people who left at the same time – Sir Alex and David Gill and so a lot of experience was lost.”
Schmeichel is currently in the country for the Abu Dhabi Invitational golf tournament, which is taking place at Yas Links over the weekend.
Dwight Yorke joins his former United colleague on a celebrity team that includes Ruud Gullit, Alessandro del Piero and Luis Figo.
The event, which concludes today, is raising money for the Cancer Care Patient Society – Rahma. For all the latest action, visit abudhabiinvitational.ae.
Manchester City are prepared to walk away from a deal to sign Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, it is understood.
The Premier League leaders feel the overall price for signing the Chile forward this month – transfer fee, agent costs and wage demands – is currently too high and must come down.
City are not concerned if this stance opens up a route for another club, even arch-rivals Manchester United, to step in.
Sanchez has long been a target for City and they offered £60million for the 29-year-old, without success, last summer. They would now hope to do a deal for a fee of around £20million but are understood to have been quoted £35million.
City have been convinced of Sanchez’s desire to work with his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola again for some time but they were prepared to wait until his contract expires in June.
A knee injury suffered by Gabriel Jesus on New Year’s Eve had the potential to change thinking and bring forward a potential deal, but the Brazilian’s problem is not as bad as feared.
With assessments suggesting Jesus could be back in training within three weeks, City have no urgent need to bring in another forward this month.
City understand Sanchez is keen to leave the Emirates Stadium in the current transfer window but they will not be pressured into overpaying by the player’s representatives, Arsenal or by the interest of any other club.
Reports emerged on Thursday that United were keen to enter the race for Sanchez but there has been no confirmation from Old Trafford.
City boss Guardiola refused to discuss the matter at a press conference to preview his side’s clash with Liverpool this weekend.
Guardiola said: “I understand completely this question, I understand you are doing your job, but you know my answer.
“I am not going (to speak about it). I’m focused on Liverpool, believe me. Alexis – everyone knows how good he is, but I am not going to answer about Alexis or other players.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, has stressed that Sanchez will only be allowed to leave the north London club this month if a replacement is found.
The Gunners, who maintain they have not yet received an approach for Sanchez, have been linked with Bordeaux’s Brazilian forward Malcom.
Wenger said: “Of course I want a quick resolution.
“Is he (Sanchez) replaceable in the way that we find exactly the same player? Certainly not, but there’s always a way to find a different balance.
“Alexis is an exceptional football player, he’s a world-class player and if that happens (he leaves) we have to find a different balance in the team.
“I have had many conversations about him and we talked about the fact that people are always observing you with a microscope when you’re on a short-term contract, but I’ve never questioned his professional attitude when he’s on the football pitch.”
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Philippe Coutinho’s €160million arrival from Liverpool will not spell the end of Andres Iniesta’s Barcelona career, the Spaniard defiantly says.
The Catalan giants have invested heavily following the summer exit of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain with Ousmane Dembele and now Coutinho brought in to share the creative burden.
Brazil international Coutinho is widely viewed as the heir to Iniesta at Camp Nou with the 33-year-old skipper showing signs of aging this season.
But Iniesta is of the opinion the two will be complementary creators rather than antagonistic forces.
“I’m a player for this club and I’ve always said that only the best can play for this club,” he told Onda Cero.
“That makes Coutinho one of the best. He’s young and he has an innate talent, while Barcelona are a club where he can keep growing.
“There will never be a player that can make me retire or kick me out of here. At 33 years of age, that isn’t the issue. Coutinho has come here to improve us.
“I’m happy that he’s one of the best players in his position. He has the things that we like.
“He’s a quick and skilful player, who links up very well, uses both feet very well, creates goals and scores them.
Video thread on Iniesta's best ever career goals. Except for his sheer elegance and quickness with the ball he has the ability to thump a few into the net. Not the one who gets on the score-sheet a lot, but when he does, he does it with finesse. pic.twitter.com/NkvVsAPGwF— F (@FGrindRole) January 8, 2018
“He’ll find a very good environment to grow here. The money we paid for him is another thing.
“The price of the market decides what a player is worth. Beyond the madness, we must be happy that he’s ours.”
Coutinho is currently sidelined with a thigh injury and is expected to make his Barca debut until the local derby with Espanyol on February 4.