Back In January, Manchester United completed one of the most shocking signings of recent years, bringing in the Chilean Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. The signing was met with huge excitement from United fans, and there were large expectations for the winger. However, Sanchez has struggled since his arrival, and his position in the system is seemingly undecided by Mourinho.
Since his arrival, Alexis Sanchez has played along all three positions behind Romelu Lukaku in a 4-2-3-1 and both sides beside him in a 4-3-3, with his position commonly changed by Mourinho mid-game, in a bid to try and work out where Alexis is best deployed. At Arsenal, Sanchez was regularly used as a Left Winger, which is a position he has started in at United. However, Sanchez seems out of place on the left and has lost the ball countless times trying to be direct by cutting in on his, stronger, right foot. This may be down to the attacking Paul Pogba, who operates on the left hand side of a midfield three. Pogba’s tendency to roam has lead to the two clashing positionally, causing both to struggle when trying to help improve United’s attacking output. This gives Mourinho a conundrum of whether to try and continue to operate both on the same side of the field, or sacrifice one of the duo’s best positions in order to stop the clashing. The easiest fix would seemingly be to move Paul Pogba to the right hand side of the trio, however the Frenchman is known to work best on the left due to his ability to cut in on his right and crack shots of from range. However, Pogba was used in a more reserved role at the World Cup on the right hand side of midfield, this time in a two with N’Golo Kante in a 4-2-3-1. Pogba enjoyed massive success in this role, picking up a goal and assist, including an extremely tidy finish in the final against Croatia. Therefore, the easiest fix in this situation would be to simply deploy Pogba on the right hand side of United’s midfield, with the more reserved Fred playing in behind Sanchez.
This isn’t the only problem with Sanchez’s position though, and much debate has been sparked over the game time of 2015 Golden Boy winner Anthony Martial. The 22 year old made 45 appearances last season in all competitions, however these appearances included limited minutes, with most coming from substitute cameos. This has frustrated many Red’s who believe that Martial should be utilised in order to aid his growth, and fulfil his, seemingly, extreme potential. This leads to another conundrum for The Special One, who will recognise that Martial and Sanchez will both want play on the Left Wing in the upcoming 2018/2019 season, which clearly isn’t possible. One solution for the Portuguese manager would be to move Sanchez over to the right hand side and play Martial on the left flank. Sanchez did play on the right primarily in his career for both Udinese and Barcelona, and only made the switch to the other side when he joined Arsenal in 2014. Sanchez played well on the right in these spells, coming third in the scoring charts in the 2013/2014 La Liga season, only topped by Ronaldo, Messi and Diego Costa in the field. This shows that Sanchez can provide from the right hand side, or at least could do so a few seasons ago. There is no doubt he may not be able to provide this numbers from this position anymore though, with his game now hugely reliant on cutting inside, which he is unable to do on the right wing. However, this may also impact Romelu Lukaku more positively, with Sanchez forced to cross in on his right to the big Belgian, who I’m sure will be wanting more service than he received up top last season.
It will be interesting to see how Mourinho balances his attack this season in order to get the best out of the wealth of talent at his disposal, and whether or not he will rotate the front line regularly in order to try and find success.
With the Chilean close to completing his ever imminent departure from Arsenal, and joining up with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, I take a look at where Alexis Sanchez will play at Old Trafford, and where he will fit in Utd’s system.
The versatility of the Chilean opens up a wide range of options for Mourinho, with the former Barcelona man able to line up across all of the 4 positions at the front line of Utd’s preferred 4-2-3-1. Sanchez has usually been deployed as a Left Winger across his 3 and a half seasons at Arsenal, as someone who is prone to cutting in on, his stronger, right foot and directly support their lone striker. This has seen Alexis contribute heavily to the London clubs goal scoring, with 80 strikes across his 166 appearances. These haven’t all been from the left side, however, and he has been started more commonly as a central striker in previous seasons. The physicality and athleticism that Sanchez boasts makes him perfect for a forward, and his eye for goal has rapidly increased since his conversion into a more isolated striker. This season, when featured, Sanchez has mostly operated as an attacking midfielder, playing off of Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette at the Emirates. Sanchez has played well in this role, picking up 8 goal contributions in 10 appearances in the spot. The Chilean often drifts onto either wing when playing down the centre, helping to offer width to his side, showing his innate ability as a wide-man. However, before his Arsenal days any central role was unheard of for Sanchez, and during his time at Catalan giants Barcelona he often played down the right hand side of a three man attack. Alexis had a mixed spell in Spain, with his often stellar performances being overlooked, and his selection in the team often inconsistent. However, his contribution from the right wing was exceptional. In the 2013/14 season Alexis finished 4th in La Liga’s goal standings, with only Messi, Ronaldo and Diego Costa superior in the field. He also notched up 12 assists, totalling to 31 goal contributions in just 34 appearances that season. Not too shabby.
With Manchester United’s current attacking force, a place for Sanchez is actually hard to find, with the talented Anthony Martial and the virtually undroppable Romelu Lukaku starting regularly in his favoured positions. Jesse Lingard is also playing incredibly at the number 10 role behind Lukaku, meaning that his current most common position at Arsenal is unavailable as well. This may mean that Sanchez will return to the position he most commonly operated at Barca, down the right flank. Sanchez will offer something fresh for United down that side, with previous players in that position such as Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan not being the outlet that they have on the opposite side through Anthony Martial. The former are more creative, with their playmaking capabilities heavily outweighing their ability to beat a man, as well as lacking athleticism. Sanchez will give United that option to play down either side, and will have the confidence to take on a full-back, rather then simply drift inside and play simple passes. Sanchez will also offer more depth in the striker position, and will give United another strong option besides Lukaku and Rashford, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s season being marred by injury.
No matter where Alexis plays, I’m certain he’ll be a massive asset to United for at least a couple of seasons, and will offer something fresh to a side who lack excitement at times in the final third. The signing also makes a statement of intent from United, and their beating of Manchester City to the players signature will send out strong messages to their City counterparts.
José Mourinho has made another huge statement in the transfer market with the signing of Belgian Forward Romelu Lukaku. The former Everton man has arrived on a 5 year deal, costing the Red Devils an eye watering £75m, plus add-ons. But the big question is, how will Lukaku fare at Utd? Here are 3 reasons why I believe Lukaku will succeed at Old Trafford.
Love or hate Lukaku, you will recognise that he is a born goalscorer, and his records back that up. Lukaku has got 85 goals in 186 games in his time in the Premier League, with 25 of them coming last season, seeing him crowned the second top scorer in the league behind Spurs’ Harry Kane. 68 of his PL goals have come in the last four seasons, putting him behind only Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane in that time bracket, showing his goalscoring consistency season after season domestically. Lukaku’s goals have come in all shapes and sizes as well, with 34 of his goals in his time at Everton, 20 on his right and 14 with his head. However, his goals have come in a typical poacher striker form, with 65 of his 68 goals at the club coming from inside the box. Lukaku also seems to be the goalscorer that Utd have lacked for the past fews season, with no player in their team reaching 20 goals in the league since Robin Van Persie in the 2012/2013 season. But how many goals will Lukaku score at Utd with the £75m fee looming large around him? The answer remains to be seen.
Lukaku’s goalscoring records are incredible for a striker of any age, but the Belgian is just 24 years old, making his records even more prominent against other strikers. Rom had more goals before his 23rd birthday than Michael Owen, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, among other world class strikers and legends of the game. He is also in a very elite club of players to score 80 Premier League goals before turning 24, which includes just him, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, proving that Lukaku is set to be one of the all-time Premier League greats, and possibly even one of the top scorers ever in the league. Lukaku’s current goalscoring ability may be incredible, but his potential is incredible, and under Mourinho Lukaku could develop into one of the worlds best.
Even at just 24 years of age, Romelu Lukaku is a very experienced player, playing consistently in lots of different competitions at Club and Country level. Lukaku’s experience at Premier League level will be especially important in how Lukaku does as Utd’s starting striker. It’s key as Lukaku must know how to deal with the physical demands of the league, which he does as good as anyone does. Lukaku also has European experience, being crowned the top scorer of the competition in the 2014/2015 season while playing for Everton. He bagged 8 goals as Everton reached the round of 16 before being dumped out. Lukaku also has experience at international level, scoring 20 goals for Belguim, including goals across two major international tournaments.
How Lukaku does at United remains to be seen, and it will be very interesting to see how fares with a team worth over £600m around him.
Since the end of the Europa League final, the usual flurry of supposed Utd transfer targets have been thrown around on social media, from Michael Keane to Gareth Bale. The most prominent of them, however, has been that of Inter Milan Winger Ivan Perisic. Causing the actual question of, who is he?
Ivan Perisic is a versatile winger, who is strong on both his left and right foot. He currently plays at Italian outfit Inter Milan, following previous spells with Wolfsburg and Dortmund. Perisic boasted 11 goals and 12 assists in all competitions last season, 10 of them being from his preferred left wing position. Perisic’s consistency is an issue, however, with his match ratings ranging largely across the 15/16 season. He is very experienced in European football, playing in the Champions League with Dortmund. His 28 years of age may be an issue, as it means that his pace and physical attributes may deplete in the near future.
Perisic is currently rated at £21m by statistics website TransferMarkt, which is a lot less then the rumoured £45m being asked for by Inter Milan. He is an experienced winner, however, with 8 trophies to his name, including a Bundesliga title won with Dortmund in the 11/12 season.
So will Utd opt to sign the diverse winger? We’ll see, with Ed Woodward and José Mourinho out in the market for a range of different players.
Back in May 2016, when José was announced as manager of Manchester United, all Utd and football fans alike waited to see how he would approach his new role. He had soon showed glimpses of what was to come, by bringing in Ivorian Centre-Back Eric Bailly, as well as the charismatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It seemed as if the José effect had started to show its worth, with his huge status in the footballing world helping persuade players from large clubs, to join a team who were set to play another season in the Europa League. Then there was the signing of Armenian Winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a player who scored 11 goals from a wing position at Dortmund in the 2015/2016 season. The next signing, however, was a bombshell in the footballing world. One which had been talked about, but not really believed by most. That was the world record signing of the dynamic Paul Pogba, a man once released by Sir Alex Ferguson during his Utd days. The signing was one which was appreciated by José Mourinho, for his footballing ability, as well as, the club owners, who were satisfied with the brand Pogba brought to the club.
August fast approached, and José’s new look United side started the season brightly, with a dramatic 2-1 Community Shield win over Champions, Leicester. His side then kicked off the Premier League season with a bang, by getting a 3-1 over Bournemouth, with a goal from Ibrahimovic. There were then more wins to follow, with a late Marcus Rashford winner at Hull, and positive 2-0 win over Southampton in Pogba’s debut. The first derby of the season then followed, with City facing Utd at Old Trafford. Henrikh Mkhitaryan stood out as playing very poorly, and a lacklustre Utd fell to a 2-1 defeat, with goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Ihenacho. It looked as if José’s 4-2-3-1 was beginning to fall apart. However, he continued using the formation, which didn’t bring much joy. A 1-0 loss to Feyenoord in the Europa League frustrated fans, and more was to follow. With a shock 3-1 loss at Vicarage Road leaving United 7th in the table. Pogba played the game sitting far too deep, with the £89 Million signing failing to influence the game, or Utd’s poor performance. José said after the game that there was 3 factors which affected his sides performance, one of them being the referee, causing the typical flurry of “Moaning José” posts on social media. But, Utd marched on and ended up getting key points in tough games until mid October, including a fantastic 4-1 thrashing over Leicester at Old Trafford. A performance which brought back memories of the Fergie days on Sir Matt Busby Way, one which included a debut goal from the slow starting Paul Pogba.
On October the 10th, José’s side travelled to Stamford Bridge, to face the manager’s former side, Chelsea, who were now lead by Italian Antonio Conte. Mourinho decided to approach the game a lot differently, and opted to debut the 4-5-1 at Utd. Just 30 seconds in, Spanish winger Pedro Rodriguez rounded David De Gea to make it 1-0 at the Bridge. A nightmare start at José’s former club. Just 20 minutes later, Gary Cahill made it 2, and it looked over just 20 minutes into the game. Goals then followed from Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante, whose goal highlighted serious problems in the defensive partnership of Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo. Following the disastrous performance, Utd struggled to find their feet in the league again, and a frustrating goalless draw against Burnley at home further proved this. A 0-0 draw in a game which Utd had 20 shots on goal, and 11 on target, as well as 66% possession. Utd fans were beginning to grow more and more angry at the lack of flair and pace in their performances, with some even beginning to post ‘Jose Out’ posts on various forms of social media. Utd then had a solid run in all competitions up until March, with only the blip of a couple of losses in the Europa League, and the frustrating draws which were costing Utd 2 points a game. This run included a dramatic equaliser from Wayne Rooney in January, which saw the skipper break the all time scoring record at United with a fabulous late free-kick saving Utd an important point in the league.
By the end of February, Utd were sat 6th in the table, 12 points off of league leaders Chelsea. Some worries started to arise about United’s chances of Champions League qualification, but there was still hope with 13 games remaining in the league. There was also the EFL Cup win , which was sealed with a 2-1 win over Southampton in the final, which saw Mourinho win his first major trophy at the club. As well as, Utd’s Europa League run, which found its place in the Last 16 by this point, after brushing aside Saint Etienne. Mid way through March, Utd were dumped out of the competition they had won in the previous season, the FA Cup, when Chelsea broke down a defensive Utd, with a 1-0 win. United’s league season stumbled towards the end in a very bland fashion, with the low-scoring draw’s continuing all the way until April. Including 1-1’s with Swansea and Everton, as well as another 0-0 draw, this time with West Brom. United then continued their Europa League campaign with a two legged win over Anderlecht in the Quarter Finals.
Then there was José’s third head-to-head with his former club of the season, on the 16th of April. José lined his team up in a very similar way to Conte’s, with a three at the back. He also gave Ander Herrera the task of marking Belgian winger Eden Hazard, a man who had been in good form leading up to the game. The decisions seemed to be a tactical masterclass from The Special One, as Utd ran out 2-0 winners at Old Trafford. The ,all but confirmed, champions were outplayed and overran, showing a glimpse of what José can do ,tactically, in big games. Utd took the momentum from this game into the week, after overcoming Anderlecht in Extra Time, through Marcus Rashford. Sending the Reds into the Europa League semi-final, a belief started to creep in that Utd might be able to win the trophy, and get automatic Champions League Qualification. It seemed now as if José had put all his eggs in the Europa League basket, as Utd took their foot off the gas and got a pair of 1-1 and 0-0 draws with Manchester City and Swansea. This was further proved with the strong team and stellar performance produced in the first leg of the Semi-Final with Spanish outlet Celta Vigo, where another fantastic goal from Marcus Rashford separated the sides. United approached the next game in the league much like the City and Swansea games, with a weak Utd side being deservedly beaten 2-0 at the Emirates. But there was a positive to take from the game, with José handing Premier League debuts to Axel Tuanzebe and Scott McTominay, who both performed in the minutes they played. United confirmed their spot in the Europa League final with a 1-1 draw at OT, a frustrating game, however, with key defender Eric Bailly being sent off and subsequently being forced miss the final in Stockholm.
All eyes were on the final, now confirmed to be with Dutch side Ajax, and Mourinho approached the games against Spurs and Southampton in a very relaxed way. The results backed this up, with a 2-0 loss and 0-0 draw with the respected sides. José then blooded a lot of youth in the final game of the season against Crystal Palace, with Josh Harrop’s stunner giving Red’s fans an idea of years to come at Old Trafford. Following the game, José rushed down the tunnel, and missed the lap of honour, as well as, providing an extremely abrupt press conference, one of which he answered no questions from the press. This showed that José had his eyes firmly set on Stockholm, with the final just 4 days away. United approached the final a little more offensive than in previous European games, with a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-2-3-1. The formation seemed to work a treat, as Utd broke down a tentative Ajax, and came out with a 2-0 victory. The win saw José clinch his 3rd trophy of the season, as well as the pivotal achievement of Champions League qualification.
José ended the season with 3 trophies and Champions League qualification, something which no other club in the league can boast. He also managed to give multiple debuts to players, which silenced the “José doesn’t play youth” claims from the media. All in all, a fantastic first season for José, who Utd fans will hope can restore the club to its former glory days as soon as possible.
One of the final pieces of Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy today ended his association with the club. He started out as a 14 year old from a Cardiff, 34 trophies later a club legend who’s departure from Manchester United will upset, not only United fans but, world football fans alike.
Well. Today was the day. July the 2nd 2016. The day of which Ryan Giggs finally detached from his beloved Manchester United. Player, assistant manager and interim manager, Giggs used whatever role he could get his hands on to extend his association with United. That association, however, could not last forever and Giggs will walk into the managerial world of football with bags of experience and an incredible knowledge of the modern game. It all started on the 29th of November 1987. The 14th birthday of Giggs, and the day that none other than Sir Alex Ferguson turned up at the Giggs household to offer the teenager a 2-year associate school boy contract that was impossible to turn down. That contract included a promise that Giggs could turn professional in 3 years, further romanticising the offer. Giggs didn’t, however, make his professional United debut until the 2nd of March 1991, as a substitute for an injured Dennis Erwin. Who would of guessed that was just the beginning of a highly decorated career that would feature 13 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups and 2 Champions Leagues. As well as a handful of individual awards that highlighted the sportsmanship and passion of Giggs, including a highly respectable OBE and 2 BBC Sports Personality Of The Years. Though it didn’t seem to be about awards for Giggs during his time at United, he seemed highly satisfied playing, as well as coaching, the club of his dreams. But he couldn’t help the fact that he was a born winner and he will hopefully teach that mentality to any new players that have the privilege to be coached under him, just like the current United players have. Well, his time at United is over, for now, and his venture into the cutthroat world of management begins. Who knows, some more experience under his belt and we could see a dramatic return to Old Trafford that United fans would welcome with open arms.
When Jose Mourinho was appointed as Man United manager back in May, we knew that he would lay his mark on the club with one or two statement signings that would highlight his intentions at Old Trafford. The imminent signing of Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan will do exactly that. With flair and pace, as well as an outstanding ability when it comes to passing, Mkhitaryan’s arrival at United will be a breath of fresh air into the club, following a few poor league finishes since the departure of club legend Sir Alex Ferguson. But where will Mkhitaryan fit in Jose Mourhino’s Manchester United plans? With an aging Wayne Rooney dropping into a midfield role and Michael Carrick pledging his allegiance to United for a further year, a central midfield role for Mkhitaryan looks highly unlikely. A wing role, however, looks a lot more likely with Dutchman Memphis Depay struggling to find his feet in his first season and Anthony Martial preferring a central striker position. Mkhitaryan could play on either side thanks to his great ability with his weaker, left foot, but made more appearances last season on the right with 9, scoring 5 goals and providing his Dortmund team mates with 6 assists. A right hand side role may also be more suited due to the lack of competition on that wing, with first team breakthrough Jesse Lingard providing Memphis Depay with competition on the left wing. However, Jose may be persuaded to start him on the left because of his stats for Dortmund last season. He scored six goals on each foot, in all competitions, and has been known to favour cutting in on his right foot from the left hand side. But no matter where he starts he should be an influential figure in the Mourinho chapter in Manchester Uniteds history. All Manchester United fans can hope is “Not another Shinji Kagawa” until we actually see the versatile playmaker in action.