Monday, 22 January 2018

Goodbye Mikki.... welcome Alexis

Well, what a mad week it's been for us United fans as we watched with baited breath to seal  one of the most earth-shattering transfers we've ever witnessed. We've been reluctant to publish anything Alexis Sanchez related on these pages, in case the deal fell through, but last night pictures circulated of the man himself in the red of United as our new number seven. That surely means that it's now official - Alexis Sanchez is a Manchester United player, with the announcement set to be rubber-stamped on Tuesday. This is a deal to rival that of Zlatan's free transfer as the greatest such coup this club has ever seen. It's looked for months as though Alexis would end up across town at City but it's classic Jose to swoop in and hijack the deal - a stunning raid for Arsenal's best player from right under the noses of the 'noisy' neighbours - now, where have we heard that before?

One door opens and another closes as we say goodbye to our popular Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan who has moved in the opposite direction in a swap deal. It's a shame that we only ever saw flashes of the Mkhitaryan who was so consistently brilliant at Borussia Dortmund, but his role in us winning the Europa League should be fondly remembered and never forgotten. In his season and a half at Old Trafford, he played 63 times for the club - 22 of which were in this campaign - and scored 13 goals. When he started this season in such blistering fashion, with seven assists in his first seven games, few would have predicted that, by January, he'd no longer be a United player. Ironically, it was the Reds who beat Arsenal to Mikki's signing for a fee of £26.3m in 2016. Mkhitaryan created a rare slice of Red history during last season's Europa League win, when he became the first man ever to score in five different European away games in a single season. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why Mikki's form went south after such a brilliant start to the season. The nadir came when he was substituted after an anonymous hour in the November defeat to Chelsea. He never recovered from that and made only one more start for the club, the recent home draw with Southampton. It's rumoured that he never saw eye-to-eye with Jose and the pair were at odds over the difference in each other's ideologies. Either way, it's a sad parting of the ways for a player who arrived with such excitement after his dazzling days at Dortmund.

For all Mikki's undoubted quality, there's no doubt that the arriving Alexis offers a significant upgrade on the departing Armenian. Mkhitaryan prefers to create from deep with agility and intricate link-up play whereas the talented and skillful Chilean is more direct and a blistering bundle of energy, pace and guile. He can score and create with either foot from anywhere across the front and possesses wonderful technical ability. We witnessed at first hand the brilliance of Sanchez in full flow when he inspired his rampant Arsenal team-mates to a 3-0 win over United at the Emirates in 2015 when he scored twice in the opening 20 minutes to cut us to ribbons.

The prospect of him in tandem with Paul Pogba - not to mention Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku - is one to set the pulses racing of every United fan.
Welcome to the biggest club in the world, Alexis Sanchez...

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