London (AFP) – Manchester United appeared to be closing in on Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez on Monday as long-time suitors and local rivals Manchester City reportedly ended their attempts to sign the Chile star.
Sanchez, 29, looks to have played his last game for Arsenal, with manager Arsene Wenger saying on Sunday that his move could be confirmed “in the next 48 hours”.
A layer of uncertainty as to whether he would opt for the blue or red half of Manchester appeared to end on Monday when, with United en route to a 3-0 win over Stoke, both the BBC and Britain’s national Press Association news agency reported that City were no longer interested in signing the forward.
While there was “nothing imminent” about a deal to take Sanchez to Old Trafford, according to a source, it did appear that City were out of the running.
Meanwhile there were fresh reports that Chelsea could move to sign Sanchez from fellow London side Arsenal, although these may amount to nothing more than an attempt to inflate the cost of him joining United.
Pep Guardiola’s City, whose move for the player collapsed at the end of the summer transfer window, are understood to be reluctant to pay a reported fee in the region of £35 million ($48 million, 39 million euros) for a player who is out of contract at the end of the season.
United boss Jose Mourinho has done nothing to rule out his interest in Sanchez, previously calling him a “phenomenal player”.
If the transfer goes ahead it would be the third blockbuster move of the January transfer window involving Premier League clubs following Philippe Coutinho’s big-money move from Liverpool to Barcelona and Virgil van Dijk’s arrival at Anfield from Southampton.
– Makeweight Mkhitaryan? –
And there was speculation on Monday that Mourinho was prepared to let United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan move south to Arsenal in order to help get the deal done.
It certainly looked as if the Armenian was on his way out of Old Trafford after he failed to even make the bench for the Premier League game at home to Stoke.
“I would lie if I said it was a pure tactical decision. It was just a choice of the players that we know, in this moment, they have 100 percent their heads in Manchester United,” said Mourinho.
“I don’t think it’s easy for a player to play when there are doubts about his future.
“It’s added pressure that a player doesn’t need, so I think it’s the best for him and for us, while the doubt is in the air, to protect him.”
Runaway Premier League leaders City boast a dazzling array of attacking talent with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero vying for places.
Sanchez would certainly feature for City, who lost their unbeaten Premier League record at Anfield on Sunday, as they chase silverware on four fronts but he would probably struggle to pin down a permanent starting berth at the Etihad.
Second-placed United, who are 12 points behind City, also have an impressive selection of forwards but Sanchez could expect more playing time alongside Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford, with doubts growing over the future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic following his recent return from a long-term injury.
Sanchez joined Arsenal from Barcelona in 2014 and in a stellar 2016/17 campaign scored 30 goals and made 17 assists, though his form has since dipped.
His loss would be a major blow for Arsenal, who saw Robin van Persie swap the Emirates for Old Trafford in 2012, with several former Gunners, including Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure, joining City in recent years.
Wenger left Sanchez out of his squad to face Bournemouth on Sunday, where they slipped to a damaging 2-1 defeat, leaving them eight points off the top four.
Arsenal have been linked with a £35 million move for Bordeaux forward Malcom but Wenger, who said the club would need a replacement if Sanchez were to leave, refused to confirm his interest in the Brazilian.
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