Alexis Sanchez on Monday joined Manchester United in a rare swap deal among two of England’s top teams that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move to Arsenal.
“I am thrilled to be joining the biggest club in the world,” said Sanchez, a former Barcelona player who had an opportunity to join Manchester City. “The chance to play in this historic stadium [Old Trafford] and to work with [United manager] Jose Mourinho was something I could not turn down.”
The transfers of the 29-year-old players were announced simultaneously, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger saying Mkhitaryan is a “very complete player.”
“It’s a dream come true, because I’ve always dreamed of playing for Arsenal,” Mkhitaryan said.
No financial details were disclosed, but United said Mkhitaryan was joining as “part of the deal” to bring Sanchez to Old Trafford.
Signing Sanchez is being viewed as a real statement by United, like Eric Cantona joined in 1992 and Robin van Persie — who also arrived from Arsenal — in 2012. Beating City to the Chile forward will make his arrival all the more sweet.
City in August last year came close to signing Sanchez and looked to be the favorite to get him this month, only to end their interest in the forward following a rival bid from United.
The Premier League leader said Sanchez and his agent increased their financial demands and that they did not want to destabilize the team by bringing in a player who would be its highest earner.
City, the league leader by 12 points, do not particularly need Sanchez. That was not necessarily the case for United.
Sanchez is to add some dynamism and unpredictability to a front line that already includes Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
Sanchez in July 2014 joined Arsenal from Barcelona for about ￡30 million (US$41.9 million), choosing a move to London amid interest from Liverpool.
Wenger rejected the theory that Sanchez was disrupting the harmony in the Arsenal team in his final months there.
“He’s a very professional player who has been committed until the last minute,” Wenger said. “In training, he was practicing with full power, so I never questioned that. I never had any doubts about that.”
Mkhitaryan was substituted at half-time of his first league start for United, setting the tone for what has turned out to be a disappointing spell after arriving in English soccer in 2016 for US$33.5 million and with a big reputation.
Mkhitaryan moved to United from Borussia Dortmund, where he was the German league player of the year, but struggled to secure a regular place in the team under Mourinho, except in the first few months of this season.
The 29-year-old Mkhitaryan has previously said his favorite team was Arsenal and his impressive technique, allied with Wenger’s naturally attacking philosophy, should make him a good fit.
Sanchez’s debut for United could come on Friday, in the FA Cup fourth-round match at fourth-tier Yeovil.
Mkhitaryan is cup-tied in that competition, so could make his debut with Arsenal against Swansea City next week.
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