Did Manchester United sign the wrong Arsenal player in January 2018?

In January 2018, there were question marks over the futures of Arsenal duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

The contracts of both players were due to expire at the end of the season. Manchester United ended up signing Sanchez, believing that a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan represented good value for money.

Meanwhile, Ozil signed a new contract that BBC reported was worth £350,000 every week, and he was joined at the Emirates Stadium by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

That was represented as a sign of ambition at Arsenal, but now Ozil is something of an outcast – while every United fan knows what a bust Sanchez was.

But what if United had signed Ozil at that time? Did they sign the wrong contract rebel from Arsenal?

Ozil and Mourinho worked together before

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Of course, Jose Mourinho was the manager when Sanchez moved to Old Trafford, believing he had landed one of the Premier League’s established stars, with an insatiable will to win.

He worked with Ozil at Real Madrid before his move to Arsenal and was clearly a huge fan.

As per the Mirror, Mourinho said of Ozil in 2013: “Ozil is unique. There is no copy of him, not even a bad copy. He is the best No.10 in the world. He makes things very easy for me and for his team-mates with his football vision and the decisions he makes.

“Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in him.”

Ozil’s reputation for being flimsy and underperforming in the big games may make him an odd fit on paper for Mourinho’s demanding style, but it clearly worked in Spain.

Perhaps Mourinho could have got more out of him than Unai Emery is currently. He could barely have proved worse than Sanchez.

Sharing the creative burden

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Everybody knows Paul Pogba is capable of producing more than he currently is and that he wants to leave Manchester United.

The reason he remains vital is because he is shouldering the creative burden at Old Trafford all on his own.

Ozil’s presence at United would unload some of that strain on Pogba – they are sorely lacking someone of his quality in the number ten role.

The presence of another world class talent at the club would likely lift the spirits around the place and Ozil should have the bit between his teeth to prove he can still do the business in England.

Ozil’s attitude and advancing years mean that an Old Trafford switch would by no means be a guaranteed success.

But he may well have been closer to what United needed during that window where they signed Sanchez, in a deal that benefited none of the parties involved.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.