Why Manchester United Should Sign Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez

Chris Fleming@@Chris__FlemingCorrespondent IJune 13, 2014

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 16: Alexis Sanchez of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at Camp Nou on March 16, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

Manchester United could do a lot worse than to send Barcelona a blank cheque for Alexis Sanchez this summer.

The Chilean, set to star in a freer role at the World Cup than the one he plays at Barcelona, would completely transform United’s attack. His raw speed and acceleration is one thing, but he also has the technical ability to be a hit at Old Trafford.

It’s hard to imagine that a player of Sanchez’s calibre would not be on Louis van Gaal’s wish list post-World Cup.

Per Jamie Jackson of The Guardian, the Dutchman is weighing up a move for Sanchez, with £20 million estimated to be close to the fee required to sign him.

It remains to be seen whether United’s interest materialisesthere are more pressing concerns for Van Gaal to consider in midfield and defence, after all—but signing Sanchez would make a real statement.

He is a world-class player and one of the finest forwards in world football right now.

Sanchez: The Answer to United’s Problems in Attack

Last season, United’s attack was typified by slow, predictable and lethargic football.

Bar Adnan Januzaj, the lack of dribbling at speed was really felt. That’s especially true given that Van Gaal’s preferred 4-3-3 system, which places two wide forwards either side of an out-and-out striker, highlights that United lack pacy, direct players.

Sanchez would therefore slot right in.

At Barcelona, he tends to play on the right-hand side—a position where he made all of his 32 La Liga and Champions League starts last season, scoring 17 goals and picking up 10 assists.

At United, however, Sanchez would enjoy more freedom. He would have more space to exploit, mainly because Barcelona’s playing style and dominance over other teams crowds the final third of the pitch.

As the above heat map illustrates, Sanchez hugs the touchline when playing for Barcelona. In Chile colours he plays in a different position and system, which allows him to roam.

In Chile’s 3-2 victory over Egypt at the end of May, Sanchez was outstanding and he created all three goals for his side.

He was utterly magnificent.

So much so that it’s worth another look. Watch the following video clip to see Sanchez showcase his wide array of skills—skipping past defenders, stretching Egypt’s back line and playing some wonderfully weighted passes.

He is a breath of fresh air.

Few players in world football are as technically adept and athletically impressive as Sanchez. United need pacy wingers who are capable of scoring goals and providing assists, which is why Sanchez could be the answer to their problems.

Sanchez Is One of the World’s Best

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15:  Alexis Sanchez of Chile in action during the international friendly match between England and Chile at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Sanchez is not just a good player. He’s one of the world’s very best.

At 25, with his prime years ahead of him, it’s frightening to think how good he could be in two or three seasons’ time.

His contribution in terms of goals and assists is what should really interest United. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale registered more combined non-penalty goals and assists than Sanchez in La Liga last season, per the work of Ted Knutson.

As the above graphic illustrates, Sanchez is a strong passer and shooter.

He is an all-rounder in the sense that he can be effective from anywhere in the opposition’s half. He can finish, he can carry the ball forward with intent and, importantly, demonstrate composure in picking out his team-mates with incisive passing.

And when you contrast Sanchez’s attacking threat to, say, Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, he would be a huge upgrade from United’s current wide men.

It’s a no-brainer.

Should United Make a Move for Sanchez?

Bruno Magalhaes/Associated Press

Though Van Gaal must sign a left-back, a centre-back and (at least) one central midfielder this summer, bringing Sanchez to Old Trafford could be the transfer that really reinvigorates United’s challenge for silverware next season.

He is a world-class player and, if available, United must go all out for him.

Sanchez had a fantastic season at Barcelona, but he was left out in some of the bigger games. Vying for a spot in the starting XI against the likes of Messi, Neymar and Pedro meant that he started on the bench a little too often for his liking.

A host of clubs will look to exploit that in the transfer market.

Naturally, given United’s woes over the last 12 months, they will be linked with many players this summer.

But it’s more important than ever that United sign proven, top-class players who fit into the system and the philosophy that Van Gaal will adopt upon arrival.

It can’t be one or the other.

And for that reason, Sanchez is a perfect signing. He is the embodiment of everything that is good about the modern-day player—technically gifted and exciting to watch.

United would be foolish not to try and sign him.

All stats via WhoScored.com unless otherwise stated.


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