Manchester United have entered the fray to sign Alexis Sanchez, and the Premier League is confounded. Many had taken it as a given that Manchester City will emerge with the Chilean’s signature once the winter window ended, but now it seems that the 29-year-old is headed to the other Mancunian destination.
With Jose Mourinho refusing to rule out a move either in his press conference ahead of Monday’s encounter against Stoke, one can still presume that the possibility of a transfer is on.
As of such, United could be on the verge of signing one of Europe’s finest talents, and a player that could solve several of their woes. Thus, let us have a look at some of the ways that the Red Devils can lineup with Sanchez in their roster:
1. 4-3-3 as a Winger
A formation that Mourinho has used on and off this season, but mainly in the domestic fixtures. This would address the pressing need at Old Trafford, with a highly rated natural winger desperately required owing to Martial and Rashford’s lack of experience on the wings.
What this would do is ensure that United have quality distributed well throughout the midfield, with Matic on the holding spot, Pogba manning the link up, and Sanchez ensuring the left flank is now a lethal source, both for and of goals.
On the same front, a three-man central midfield will provide more stability to the manner in which United function, as evident in some of their December fixtures, where Pogba’s attacking ploys left Matic often overwhelmed as the lone figure in the heart of the midfield.
Keeping him there would also enable Martial more than Rashford to be the potential third option as a striker to Lukaku and Ibrahimovic, which ought to create an interesting dynamic as well.
2. 3-5-2 as a Striker
However, it was statistically proven last season, that when Sanchez was deployed as a striker at Arsenal, which he was 70% of the time, he outperformed than when used as a winger. As of such, is it really a wise bet on part of Mourinho to utilize him solely as a wide option?
If Sanchez is to be deployed solely as a striker, then this is the way to go about it. United have dabbled with 3 in the back for much of this season, and have had fairly positive results. Judging by how well he has progressed as a striker last season, a pair-up with Lukaku could be the perfect answer to much of Mourinho’s attacking woes.
Further, Pep Guardiola, who first brought the Chilean to the spotlight, remarked as much regarding the forward spot when he spoke to Sky Sports last season: “He played really good in Barcelona but normally when you play with (Lionel) Messi all the players beside him are not at his level.
“I think the position Arsenal are using him as a striker, in front, it is perfect for him. In Barcelona maybe I didn’t help him too much because he played wide. He can do that but he is better between the lines, closer to the goal.”
Apart from that, he could be the ideal partner to solve Lukaku’s goal-scoring drought. The Belgian marked a strong arrival from Everton early on this season with 11 goals in his first 10 appearances, but has managed a mere 5 in the 21 matches since.
Much of it has been attributed to half willed chances being provided to him, and since his strength lies chiefly in clinical finishing, he is often rendered toothless.
But Sanchez has seen a marked improvement in terms of creating chances. Over the last three seasons, he created 183 chances from open play, with only Ozil and Eriksen sporting better figures. Those are ideal figures for Lukaku to translate into goals.
Apart from that, his knack for scoring goals must not be ignored either, having found the back of the net 24 times last season – a career best. While a full-time striker’s role might be a risky role to hand over to him, it is one where the odds could spell grand success in the long run.
3. 4-2-3-1 as An Open No.10
This is an option that seems to be the ideal one for a United with Sanchez. In it, the Chilean maestro will be provided ample freedom to function as an open player and play throughout the line, despite starting either as a winger or an attacking midfielder.
Noteworthy here is the fact that Hazard was employed during Mourinho’s stint at Chelsea in an identical fashion to overwhelming success. During that title-winning season, Hazard scored 14 goals and provided 9 assists, and was the heart and spirit of the Chelsea side. Mourinho could craft a similar role for Sanchez and ape the kind of brilliance the Belgian has perfected at Stamford Bridge.
Further, this lineup would allow for a team to be crafted around Sanchez, which is highly required for a player of his talents. The free role will also add a creative flair to the side that is otherwise missing, if not for a rare magical Pogba moment. With the Gunner allowed free reign, much can be gained.
Moreover, this would not sideline Martial entirely, and would play well with regard to his knack for preferring a central role or cutting to it via play. The duo can switch positions too, something that United have done rarely since Sir Alex Ferguson left. This partnership could link up for years to come and set a foundation for a style of play that is different from the classic Red Devil brand.
It seems likely that this would be the most tactically sound and creatively apt lineup for Mourinho to employ should he desire to match up to Manchester City and put up a strong Champions League challenge as well.
Here is United’s strongest 11 with Sanchez:
His versatility and caliber also open up the potential for an entirely different style as well. But what is certain is that if Mourinho is able to pry him away from City, then some really entertaining moments await the Old Trafford faithful.
Written by Naveen Kelvin
A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.