Now that Alexis Sanchez has signed for Manchester United, we take a look at where he will fit in to the system Jose Mourinho plays.
Sanchez’s preferred position is from the left. This is the area of the pitch where the forward has established his reputation. It’s also an area of the pitch where United are well-stocked. With Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, Jose Mourinho has options which don’t need upgrading.
In pre-season, he chased Ivan Perisic, a natural left footer, with the idea that he would supply the crosses to Romelu Lukaku. Martial and Rashford are very different players and that has prompted Mourinho to consider the way his forwards play. Sanchez is a similar sort of player in that he likes to cut in. But United’s riches in that position mean he is unlikely to play from the left.
The number 10
This is the role vacated by Henrikh Mkhitaryan. It could therefore be a symbolic move, with Mourinho boldly going to a more conventional strike force where Sanchez and Lukaku play off each other. It also provides the versatility for Sanchez to interchange with whoever is on the left.
In theory this is the least likely option given that it is a little deeper than the role he played at Arsenal, the more you consider the various options, the more likely it seems.
Leading the line
One option is to provide penetration and a clinical edge where Romelu Lukaku normally brings strong hold up play. However, Lukaku is still very much first choice, and it is more probable that Sanchez will be a complement rather than a replacement.
From the right
This seems the most logical choice and yet even in itself isn’t the most straightforward. United’s right hand side has been their most troubled area in attack, and was exposed by Antonio Valencia’s recent injury. They are heavily reliant on the width of the Ecuadorian as Juan Mata likes to cut inside.
Yet, Mata’s form in away games has been a particular highlight. His link-up play with Jesse Lingard has been exceptional and has contributed to United’s proficient chance creation in away games.
Still, despite Mata’s impressive performances, where United struggle to penetrate or create chances particularly in the bigger games, Mourinho will surely prefer Sanchez’s pace. In today’s game, fluidity and flexibility is key, and so the unpredictable nature of which player will line up in which position will also benefit United.