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29th January 2018

Where will Alexis Sánchez fit in at United?

The Chilean winger has departed Arsenal in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but how will José Mourinho use him?
Where will Alexis Sánchez fit in at United?
Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов @ wikimedia commons

One of the most protracted transfer sagas is over as Alexis Sánchez has completed his move to Manchester United. The winger adds some much-needed quality to this United side, and the pace and skill of the player is a dangerous weapon to add to United’s attacking lineup.

Left Winger

The most natural position for Sánchez is on the left wing. He is naturally right footed meaning he can cut in and fire off shots with his stronger foot but his left foot is also good enough to be able to deliver accurate crosses from wide areas. His pace out wide will also put him into one-on-one situations against fullbacks and, given the player’s skill, it is likely he will be able to win the majority of these.

Left Inside Forward

Inside forward
An alternative to the left winger model is to sacrifice the width and play more as a left inside forward. This will create an overload in the centre of the pitch which will cause problems for the defence. They will not know whether to go out to meet Sánchez or to continue marking Romelu Lukaku. If they choose the latter, space will open up for the Chilean to get shots in at goal. This does, however, increase the attacking work of the left fullback.

Lone Striker

Lone Striker
A position Sánchez adopted on occasion during his Arsenal days was that of a lone striker. He has the pace and finishing ability to be a success in this position but this also limits the amount of time he will be on the ball. If Mourinho believes his midfielders are good enough to consistently pick out Sánchez then he could deploy the player in this role but it is more likely he would favour another so that Sánchez has as much ball exposure as possible.

Strike Partner

strike partner
The little and large combination is one rarely seen in modern football especially at an elite level. However, Chelsea’s public search for any English player over the height of 6ft 3 shows the tactic is not entirely extinct. With the aerial prowess of Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimović in the team, Sánchez can operate as the receiver of the knockdown. Running onto the end of headed passes and may give United a sight at goal especially against difficult-to-break-down teams.

Number Ten

If you wanted to maximise the best of Sánchez’s passing ability, the most suitable role would be a number ten. On the other hand, this would limit the use of his most dangerous skill — his finishing. Jesse Lingard has flourished in this role despite being seen as a conventional winger in the past while other wingers such as Raheem Sterling have struggled. If given the chance, time will tell if Sánchez can perform in this role. Given the form Lingard is in, however, it is unlikely Mourinho would drop him.

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