The tug of war between Manchester United and Manchester City over Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez has heated up of late and Jose Mourinho has only stirred the pot after his comments at a press conference on Friday.
When asked about the links to the 29-year-old who’s contract at the Emirates Stadium runs out in the summer, he was typically contradictory.
He started by refusing speak about Sanchez in particular before going on to do just that indirectly in a thinly veiled hypothetical.
“I don’t think it’s correct to say things about Alexis Sanchez,” he said.
“At the general level, what I can say is that myself and the Manchester United board, we don’t believe a lot in the January market. We don’t believe in signing players just to sign a player, just to do something. We don’t believe in that.
“What we believe really is that there are some players in the football world, if you have a chance to sign them, it doesn’t matter if it is in January, March or July you have to try.
“But in relation to Alexis Sanchez, I don’t say a word. The only word I can say is the same word that everybody says, he’s a phenomenal player.
“Apart from that, (he’s an) Arsenal player, I feel I shouldn’t say much more than this.”
United are understood to have bid £25m for the Chilean, £5m more than City are prepared to pay, while also offering the player higher wages.
Jose Mourinho‘s Manchester United side have fallen too far behind in the Premier League title race and are underdogs for the Champions League crown. So it’s no surprise that the club have been linked with reinforcements in a bid to jump-start their season.
So which one should United look to buy? Here’s our verdict on each attacker.
If it weren’t for the more recent rumours about the other two players, United’s interest in Sanchez would have been the surprise story of the window. He’s long been linked with a move to City, so much so that it seemed more or less a done deal.
But even given City’s 15-point lead at the top of the table, signing Sanchez now seems like a risk. It could upset the chemistry and balance of the team trying to integrate him, as that would require sacrificing one of Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sane. He’s also a player who dominates the ball, which would mean an uneasy settling in period alongside City’s pass masters, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva.
At United, there’s more of a need, and more of a likelihood that he’ll instantly make an impact. And while he hasn’t reached the form of previous years this season, of the three targets there’s no doubting he’s the best player. Vardy just about outscores him, with 0.45 goals per 90 minutes to 0.42 – but Sanchez is not a striker, making that small gap to one of the Premier League’s leading strikers a remarkable statistic in itself.
Unsurprisingly, he creates far more chances per 90 minutes – 2.99 to Chicharito’s 1.20 and Vardy’s 0.79 – and thus has more assists, making him a much more potent all-around attacking force.
Plus, in the ultimate test of a Mourinho attacker, Sanchez is on par or better than the two strikers defensively. He effects the most tackles per 90 out of the three, and makes his presence felt in his own half more often, with more blocks than Vardy and Chicharito. All three fit the Mourinho mould of being willing to put in the hard work but Sanchez does it best.
COMPATIBILITY RATING – 8/10
Vardy has shown that his hard-nosed mentality – not so different to Sanchez, who often plays like a street fighter – is backed by a store of willpower that helps him succeed at any level.
He’s scored nine league goals already this season, tied for eighth in the Premier League scoring charts. That’s only one less than Lukaku and nearly as many as Sanchez and Chicharito combined (11). He’s also the most accurate of the three options, scoring with 26% of his shots.
What that would mean at United is that Lukaku could get some rest without there being any drop off in goal threat. The two could also play together, which would be a nightmare for defences – both have a physical, bruising style but also a keen sense of movement.
The knock against Vardy is his age – at 31, he may not have more than two seasons left in him at this level. He’s also likely to be the most expensive of the three transfer targets, with Leicester having reportedly set his valuation at £35million.
In today’s market, that’s still fairly cheap for a striker of his quality, but with United certain to reinforce the squad again in the summer, is it worth spending that much on a player whose value will only dip as his career goes on?
COMPATIBILITY RATING – 6/10
Chicharito’s return to the Premier League hasn’t quite worked out with West Ham struggling to find any attacking fluidity earlier this season. Then, of course, David Moyes became the Hammers manager, a development that coincided with Chicharito suffering an injury.
Moyes was never sold on Chicharito when the two were at United, and it seems that impression has remained. The Mexican isn’t the best fit for the Scot’s style, especially with a striker like Andy Carroll available.
It’s no surprise that across most metrics, Chicharito comes in below Vardy and Sanchez. He’s only scored four league goals, and hasn’t bagged an assist yet. And unexpectedly for a player who’s made a name for himself as a goal poacher, he has the lowest shot accuracy – of himself, Vardy, Sanchez, and Lukaku, he’s the only player whose accuracy is lower than 50%.
Despite West Ham’s struggles, Chicharito creates more chances per 90 minutes (1.20) than both Vardy (0.79) and Lukaku (1.14). It’s much less than Sanchez’s 2.99, but then, the Chilean is more of a creator by nature anyway.
In Mourinho, he’ll have a manager who’s a known and vocal admirer of his abilities, which will do wonders for his confidence. There’s also his history at the club – he was a fan favourite at Old Trafford during his first spell, and he scored crucial goals to fire the club to two league titles during that time. Back in comfortable, familiar surroundings, with the love from fans washing over him and an appreciative manager, Chicharito could thrive.
But the biggest factor? West Ham may be willing to part with him for the same amount they spent in the summer – just £17million. A proven player who can lead the line on his own, play alongside Lukaku, or come off the bench, at that price, is a steal.
COMPATIBILITY RATING – 7/10
Jesus was carried off with medial knee ligament damage during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on December 31 and the initial diagnosis was that he faced up to six weeks out, leaving him in a race to be fit by mid-February.
But the Brazil international, 20, has responded well to a visit to Barcelona this week, to be treated by Ramon Cugat, the surgeon Guardiola regularly turns to when his players are battling serious injuries.
“Yesterday, he was in Barcelona with Dr Cugat, and at the end, the news was quite good,” said the City boss, who has been short of striking options since the injury to Jesus.
“When we play Basel in the Champions League, he could be ready. I think, in two or three weeks he’ll be ready and with us.”
City, who lead the Premier League by a gaping 15 points, play the Swiss side in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie on February 13.
Guardiola was reluctant to comment on his chances of signing Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal during the January transfer window, instead saying that his focus was on maintaining City’s fine form when they travel to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday.
City remain favourites to sign the Chile forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season and has made clear that he wishes to leave the Emirates Stadium but Manchester United are reported to have joined the race for his signature.
“I understand completely why you ask this question, it’s your job,” said Guardiola. “But you know my answer. I am focused on Liverpool.”
“What’s important is what happens over 90 minutes on the field,” he added. “That is what I want to speak about.
“The players have two choices: Follow what you (the media) say, or follow me. I hope to convince them to follow what I am talking about. It’s about football, football, football on the pitch.”
The City boss said the match against in-form Liverpool at Anfield would give him a good idea of how far his team could go in the Champions League this season.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 12, 2018
“It is a real test at Anfield, one of the most prestigious stadiums,” he said. “It’s a big game for us and we’re going to prepare as best as possible.
“If you want to achieve something good, win titles, you have to not just win but win at these kind of stages. At Stamford Bridge we were able. Old Trafford we were able.
“We’ve still got tough teams to come. It is such an important game to see if we are able to do big things – especially in the Champions League stages.
“It means a lot in terms of how complicated it is to play there.”
Provided by AFP Sport