How Manchester United Can Lineup With Alexis Sanchez In The Team
Manchester United signed Alexis Sanchez on Monday, finally ending the transfer saga by handing the Chilean a four-and-a-half year contract. Arsenal received the services of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in return, with the Armenian claiming that he had always dreamed of playing at the Emirates.
With Sanchez now an official United player, attention will soon turn to where the Chilean international would fit in. The 29-year-old, who has signed a £350,000-a-week contract with United, has always been a player who’s liked to play every minute of every game, so rotation probably won’t be an option. However, his versatility in attack means that there are a number of options for Mourinho to choose from in finding an ideal place for him.
Here are three ways in which our manager could utilise the Chilean:
In The No.10 Role
In our 3-0 victory over Stoke at Old Trafford, United lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Romelu Lukaku up front. Given his high energy, direct running and ability to cut open defences in one blink of an eye, Sanchez would slot into the role that Lingard occupied, with poise.
The Chilean never played this role at Arsenal but at United, he could help draw defenders away from Lukaku and create ample space for our big Belgian to exploit.
However, the most immediate disadvantage of playing Sanchez centrally would be the disruption it could cause to Lingard’s prolific form lately. Our academy graduate has been the club’s standout performer in a month or so, and taking him out of a role where he has thrived could have a negative impact on his performances.
On The Wings
Given the make-up of the current United side, Mourinho may be tempted to use Sanchez from the left of a 4-2-3-1. Sanchez spent much of his time at Arsenal on the left wing and it would suit United most if they were to play him there. His ability to cut in on to his favoured right foot would a key weapon.
However, Anthony Martial has performed spectacularly this season and it wouldn’t be a nice idea to unsettle the Frenchman by putting Sanchez on the left. So, Mourinho should keep Martial on the left and allow Sanchez to take the right-wing position, which is currently occupied by Juan Mata.
Although Mata has made 15 of his 16 Premier League starts so far as a wide player, he has failed to influence the game on most of the occasions and should make way for the mercurial Chilean.
Such a move by Mourinho is possible and he has played with three at the back this season. He is likely to continue making such an alteration when the opportunity arises going forward but that would come at the expense of his wingers. A formation of 3-5-2/3-4-1-2 has been tried and tested and our manager should unleash our blockbuster signing by pairing him up with Lukaku.
Given the investment we made in Lukaku, it is highly unlikely that our manager would choose Sanchez as the lone striker. Instead, he could team Sanchez up with Lukaku and decide to use either the industry and energy of Lingard or the pace and direct running of Martial in the No.10 role. If Mourinho chooses to go with this formation, either of Martial or Lingard has to make way.
False 9/No.9 (4-3-3)
Lukaku has led the line well since his move from Everton in the summer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was considered as the second choice as he made a quick recovery from his horrible injury.
Despite recovering early as one thought, Ibrahimovic has been ruled out for a month. While Martial can play centrally as he did so against Everton, his best form has come from the left. So, let’s strike out the option of Mourinho shifting the Frenchman into a central position.
Like Martial, Marcus Rashford has also been effective from the left-wing this season. While many consider Rashford to be a future No.9 at the club, the England international has failed to make most of his chances when given the centre-forward’s role and has been underwhelming since the start of December last year.
This risks Lukaku of becoming fatigued as he’d have to play every single game and Mourinho simply needs to ease the pressure off the former Chelsea man. That’s where Sanchez’s versatility to play anywhere in the attack comes into play.
Though he is unlikely to feature as an out-and-out striker on a weekly basis, the former Arsenal man could be used as a radical alternative to Lukaku when necessary. Having played as a central striker on occasions, Sanchez is capable of starting up front and leading the line. This would help in sharing Lukaku’s burden, giving the Belgian international a rest whenever required.
Sanchez arrival gives Mourinho a readymade superstar who seems ready to do anything and everything to bring the glory days back to the club. The Chilean is a hard worker, which Mourinho demands from all his forwards. The signing of Sanchez gives our gaffer to tinker his formation as per his tactics and use the team’s shape to best effect.
Sanchez’s arrival may well see either of Rashford, Lingard or Martial get lesser opportunities, but that would also mean healthy competition in order to make the Red Devils a better team.