Alexis Sánchez said he could not turn down the chance to work with José Mourinho after sealing his transfer from Arsenal to Manchester United in a deal that sees Henrikh Mkhitaryan move in the other direction.
Sánchez becomes the second high-profile forward to move directly from the Emirates Stadium to Old Trafford in the last six years following Robin Van Persie’s £23m transfer in August 2012.
Like with Van Persie, Sánchez departure is a huge blow for Arsenal but, equally, comes as no surprise. The Chile forward had become increasingly disillusioned with life at the London club, and with his contract up in the summer there had been persistent speculation about his future since the last-minute collapse of a move to Manchester City on the final day of last summer’s transfer window.
A move to the Etihad Stadium to link up with Pep Guardiola, under whom Sánchez played when he was at Barcelona, had appeared to be the likeliest outcome for the player. The 29-year-old had reportedly agreed personal terms for a move to City during the current transfer window, who had submitted a £20m bid for the player, only to join to their bitter, local rivals instead after they came in with a reportedly better package, as well as a larger transfer fee.
“I am thrilled to be joining the biggest club in the world,” Sánchez told United’s website. “I have spent three and a half wonderful years at Arsenal and I bring with me very positive memories of that great club and its fans. The chance to play in this historic stadium and to work with José Mourinho was something I could not turn down. I am very proud to be the first Chilean player ever to play for United’s first team and I hope I can show our fans all around the world why the club wanted to bring me here.”
Sánchez though could not resist a dig at former Arsenal players, via Instagram, who have criticised him over the past few months.
“There are people (former club players) who have spoken with no knowledge of what happens inside the club and cause damage,” he wrote.
“I must say, I always gave 100% until the last day. I remember today a conversation I had with Henry, a historic Arsenal player who changed club for the same reason and today is my turn.”
The blow has somewhat been softened for Arsenal by the arrival of Mkhitaryan. The Armenia midfielder has struggled since joining United in July 2016, but proved at Borussia Dortmund that he is a technically gifted, creative talent.
Mkhitaryan told Arsenal’s website: “I’m very happy that we could finish this deal and I’m very happy to be here. It’s a dream come true because I’ve always dreamed of playing for Arsenal. Now that I’m here, I’ll do my best for this club to create history.”
His new manager, Arsène Wenger, said: “Henrikh is a very complete player. He creates chances, he defends well, he can absorb distances and he’s very committed as well. I must say he’s a player who has all the attributes.”
Mourinho paid tribute to Mkhitaryan as he welcomed Sánchez to Old Trafford. “Alexis is one of the best attacking players in the world and he will complete our very young and talented group of attacking players,” United’s manager said. “He will bring his ambition, drive and personality, qualities that make a Manchester United player and a player that makes the team stronger and the supporters proud of their club dimension and prestige.
“I would like to wish Henrikh all the success and happiness that I am sure he is going to get. He is a player that we will not forget, especially for his contribution to our Europa League victory.”
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