During a period inundated by bizarre events unfolding at Manchester United, the club’s acquisition of Alexis Sanchez arguably tops the lot.
For months, it seemed as though the Chilean would pledge his footballing future to the blue side of Manchester. Instead, Sanchez chose to join Mourinho’s men, a move that flipped United’s season on its head.
United didn’t particularly need the player’s services, but the opportunity to sign him from Arsenal was one Ed Woodward couldn’t refuse.
The side had a new, ‘worthy’ player to occupy the number seven jersey, and another world-class talent at the head of their attack.
But was sacrificing Henrikh Mkhitaryan to bring Sanchez to Old Trafford worth it? Let’s take a look.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ: BEFORE THE MOVE
The season prior to his blockbuster move saw Sanchez reach massive heights at Arsenal in terms of his performances at the club.
During the 2016/17 season, he tallied a whopping 24 goals and 10 assists for the club, an immense achievement for a player originally thought to be a winger.
Arsenal’s lack of firepower up front meant that Sanchez occupied the central channels more, whether it be as a number nine or number ten.
The Chilean’s closer proximity to the goal improved his returns. However, due to Lukaku’s impressive form for United during his time at the club so far, we’re unlikely to see Sanchez play in a similar role – unless, of course, there is a change in system.
During the first half of the 2017/18 season, Sanchez made 19 league appearances for the Gunners, scoring seven goals and assisting three.
Meanwhile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan made 15 league appearances for Manchester United during the first half of last, scoring one goal and assisting five.
SANCHEZ VS MKHITARYAN: FINISHING STATISTICS
Even without the statistics to support, it’s well-known that Sanchez has more of a knack for finding the back of the net than Mkhitaryan.
Even though Sanchez’s scoring record wasn’t particularly the most impressive for United last season, his 0.19 goals per 90 metrics are better than Mkhi’s measly 0.12.
In terms of shooting accuracy, it’s not even close between the two. Sanchez recorded 82% of his shots on target, while Mkhitaryan managed just 59%. However, this may be partly due to the Armenian recording more shots overall. Per 90 metrics, Mkhitaryan record 2.43 shots, while Sanchez tallied 1.75.
Finally, Sanchez again comes out on top in terms of attacking score. His score of 27.39 edges out Mkhitaryan’s 22.2t8.
SANCHEZ VS MKHITARYAN: PLAYMAKING STATISTICS
Mkhitaryan’s best chance of besting Sanchez has to be in the service he provides in creating goals, as opposed to scoring them. However, the statistics from the tail end of the season suggest otherwise.
The Armenian gets off to a promising start, beating Sanchez’s 0.29 assists per 90 metrics by tallying 0.36. However, it all goes downhill from there.
In terms of key passes per 90 metrics, Mkhitaryan recorded 1.33 while Sanchez achieved 2.05. Furthermore, Sanchez’s 2.34 chances created per 90 metrics significantly outperform Mkhitaryan’s tally of 1.7.
Finally, both players managed to succeed in the percentage of successful take-ons they made per 90 metrics. However, Sanchez again comes out on top, his 74.55% record beating Mkhitaryan’s 66.67%.
Judging by these statistics, it’s clear to see that United got the better end of the deal. However, it was certainly one that held benefits for parties. For United, they were receiving a player of the same age as Mkhitaryan who would improve their squad.
Meanwhile, Arsenal were offloading a player who didn’t appear as though he wanted to stay at the club while bringing in a suited replacement without the need to spend any cash.
The reported wages United would pay Sanchez upon his arrival at the club may have been too much for Arsenal. In a business sense, letting him go was a smart move.
However, what’s important to note is what the statistics don’t show. The deal massively disrupted how each side would set up.
With Aubameyang arriving from Dortmund in the same window, Arsenal became top-heavy, struggling to fit all of their star players into the same starting XI. On the contrary, the arrival of Sanchez at United meant that players such as Martial and Rashford would fall down the pecking order of United’s starting left-winger.
Before the Chilean’s arrival, the pair worked well as a tandem. Both would alternate starting for the side, while whoever was benched would come on late into games to run at tired defences. Mkhitaryan’s departure also meant United were short of right-wingers, forcing Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata to be the go-to choices on the right flank.
Manchester United signing Alexis Sanchez certainly disrupted what could have been considered a successful season for the team up until that point. However, on his day, Sanchez can easily be one of the best players in the Premier League.
If Sanchez recovers the form that saw him narrowly miss out on a golden boot to Harry Kane, then it could spell an extremely successful period at the club.
The Glazer’s financial agenda aside, the move showed that United have the desire to evolve into world-beaters once more. Gathering a team of top-class talent is the first step to achieving this.
The next may prove to be much more difficult – actually getting them to play well.