And with both players look set to join a new club, we ask: Are United the clear winners from the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan swap deal?
Let us know what you think as two of our writers debate on the topic.
YES – Matt Monaghan
Not even the figures enclosed in the British Chancellor of the Exchequer’s iconic red briefcase for their annual Budget speech will receive as much scrutiny as those involved in the ongoing Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal.
Do not get distracted by the £400-500,000 (Dh2-2.5 million) which will depost itself in the Chile forward’s bank account each week from Manchester United. Gaining a player of his rarified ability, alligned with his new employer’s booming finances, provides a clear edge.
For all Mkhitaryan’s current and past exploits, he was not Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s first pick when United came calling. Overtures for France forward Anthony Martial and rehabilitated England left-back Luke Shaw were swiftly rejected.
In blunt terms, United have gained a world-class footballer, cut loose an enigmatic talent unable to fulfil the hard-working demands manager Jose Mourinho makes of his playmakers and retained two prospects of huge promise.
Since being bought from Barcelona in July 2014, Sanchez has averaged a goal every 169 minutes and an assist every 405 minutes in the top flight. Mkhitaryan has taken, on average, 287 minutes longer to score and just 25 minutes more to register an assist in the wake of his arrival in July 2016 from Borussia Dortmund.
The Armenian has had 18 months in the doldrums, meaning a gamble is being made about the productive form of old returning. Even a disinterested Sanchez has provided a greater threat since his desire for a summer exit went unfulfilled.
United have also pulled off the much-sterner task of adding a premium talent eligible to play in this season’s Champions League’s knockout stages. It is easier to find men ready to bolster a Europa League-campaign.
Sanchez adds vigour, deepens options and is a born winner. When such a talent is procured for £10m (Dh51m) less – in relative terms – than Everton paid for Gylfi Sigurdsson, there is only one winner.
NO – Chris Bailey
In an ideal world Alexis Sanchez would have been trapped in the middle of a five-year contract and Arsenal could name their price. The Gunners have regrettably never operated that way.
But for the first time in a long while they have defied their tag as one of the Premier League’s biggest doormats in the transfer market and not let Sanchez’s antics floor them.
There were no positives to glean when Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri were shipped up north for cut-rate prices. It sent a a clear message to potential arrivals that Arsenal lack ambition.
This time? The Gunners have parted with a wantaway player six months before he would have rushed out of the door and replaced him with someone who, on his day, can match his genius.
Few United fans will say that they are sorry to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan go. His confidence is egg-shell fragile and when he’s bad, he’s really bad. He lost the ball 21 times during a Champions League group stage clash against Benfica in October.
When he’s good, there’s no disputing he is really good.
And you know who will be excited about the prospect of reestablishing a connection? Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, who was the chief beneficiary of Mkhitaryan’s assist assault during his time with Borussia Dortmund.
There’s no disputing Sanchez is a superior talent as it stands. But United have acquired a player who, at 29, will before long lose some of his crucially explosive pace. He also has a lot of wear on his tyres, as this summer will be the first time he’s not playing for Chile for five years.
There are already rumours that Paul Pogba is casting envious eyes at Sanchez’s monster pay packet. It only increases the pressure on the new boy to be an unqualified success at United, whereas Mkhitaryan will have an easier time blending into Arsenal’s fold as a less-heralded arrival.
For once, Arsenal can be accused of shrewdness.
Martial has scored in each of United’s past three Premier League games, netting the winner against Burnley by clinically firing home at the start of the second half after his team had failed to register a single shot on target in the first period.
The Frenchman, 22, now has 11 goals for the season, three more than he managed across all of last term, and is becoming increasingly important for Mourinho on the left-hand side of his attack.
“We know the talent,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“It’s just about consistency, and not just consistency in the goals he scores but also consistency in the way he plays overall.
“But (there are) no doubts that from last season to this season (there has been) a great improvement from Anthony and we need that.”
Mourinho is keen on attacking reinforcements and is expected to have another option soon as Alexis Sanchez moves close to completing his move from Arsenal.
Martial’s current form would suggest Sanchez may be stationed on the opposite flank should he arrive, with Romelu Lukaku remaining the central striker.
It was Lukaku who held the ball up on halfway and rolled in Martial for his goal at Turf Moor and Mourinho was quick to highlight his contribution.
“That was amazing,” he added to MUTV.
“But sometimes people look at strikers and analyse just the number of goals, and it’s not fair because (Lukaku) is a team player and the quality, the vision, the pass to make Martial face the one against one was fantastic.”
Lukaku and Martial linked up for the moment that consigned Burnley to a fourth successive defeat in 2018, with Sean Dyche’s side winless in all competitions since December 12 when a victory over Stoke temporarily moved them into the Champions League qualification places.
Despite their run since, the Clarets are still eighth in the Premier League table and Dyche has taken heart from performances in recent weeks where they have faced United, twice, Tottenham and Liverpool in the division.
Good Win 🔴🔴🔴 pic.twitter.com/NsfaR0hnAu
— Anthony Martial (@AnthonyMartial) January 20, 2018
“If you look at the stats you can clearly see there’s a gap between the top six, who almost none have had an awkward run,” he said.
“Every single club outside of that top six has had a tough run at some stage or another. That clearly defines the league.
“When we perform like that against some of these superpower clubs, then I’m very, very pleased with how far we’ve come as a team. I think we continue to move forward, including that performance.
“Results are hard to come by but you can’t always measure everything on a result, not as a manager.
“As a fan you do but as a manager you’ve got to look beyond the results sometimes and over this run we’ve had I’ve been pretty pleased with a lot of performances.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Alexis Sanchez has reportedly arrived at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground as his transfer to the Red Devils edges closer to completion.
According to Sky Sports News, the Chilean is finalising the closing stages of his move to United, which sees Henrikh Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.
Sanchez is due to undergo a medical at the Manchester club.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 21, 2018