Trevor Steven: Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal is win-win for Manchester United and Arsenal

Trevor Steven
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Alexis Sanchez poses in Manchester United shirt after signing from Arsenal in January 2018
Alexis Sanchez completed a move to Manchester United this week (Source: Getty)

Even for the world’s richest club, the sheer scale of the sums involved in Manchester United’s signing of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal mean that it has to be classed as a gamble.

Firstly, the club’s other top earners could be unsettled by the news that Sanchez stands to pocket £350,000 per week, the highest salary in the Premier League.

That may well be because Sanchez was out of contract in the summer and therefore able to command higher wages, but that won’t appease some of his team-mates.

Read more: Sanchez: I couldn't turn down United – world's biggest club

Secondly, at 29, the Chile forward is a greater injury risk. Every time he plays United chiefs will have their fingers crossed that he doesn’t get hurt, because when you are paying someone that sort of money you want them involved all of the time.

That said, it is a gamble worth taking for United.

Rarely does the chance arrive to sign a player of Sanchez’s quality in January, especially a proven match-winner who knows English football and is available to play in the Champions League. It’s hard to think of anyone better they could have landed at this time.

He can play up front, in the hole behind a striker or out wide, so Jose Mourinho has a number of ways to use him.

I can’t imagine Mourinho will drop Romelu Lukaku but Anthony Martial’s place will come under pressure and I don’t think this signing will help Marcus Rashford’s hopes of game time for the rest of the season.

Several players will feel the heat but one thing’s for sure: Sanchez will play because he’s a great signing.

Is he a great loss to Arsenal, though? I’m not so sure.

He has been dragging his feet and underperforming for about a year now. That transmits to other players, who will have been affected by his mood. It feels as though a fresh start is better for both parties.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the player they have secured in exchange, could also be what Arsenal need, so it’s win-win.

Mkhitaryan has joined Arsenal from United in exchange for Sanchez (Source: Getty)

It didn’t go as he’d have hoped it would at United, but he seems genuinely excited to be joining the Gunners and they may prove a better fit for the Armenian.

They play more like Borussia Dortmund, where he thrived, and the pressure won’t be as high as at Old Trafford.

If Arsenal can also bring in Mkhitaryan’s former team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Dortmund, as they hope to do, then I think Arsene Wenger’s side will have been improved.

It will have been galling for them to see Sanchez announced as a United player, and I thought the manner in which it was done – a video of him playing “Glory, Glory Man United” on the piano – wasn’t very tasteful.

It was a slap in the face for his old club and could have been done with more class. I don’t imagine he’ll get a good reception when he returns to Emirates Stadium.

I don’t blame the player for making the move, though, and Arsenal had no choice but to be pragmatic about the deal.

While they are struggling to keep up with their rivals in the Premier League and only in the Europa League, United are the closest challenger to Manchester City, still in the Champions League, and, of course, the richest team in the world.

Read more: Man Utd named world's richest club ahead of Real Madrid

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