Manchester United have gazumped Manchester City once with Robin van Persie... but it may be harder to tempt Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford now
- Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez is involved in a tussle between both Manchester clubs
- United dramatically beat City to the signing of Arsenal's Robin van Persie in 2012
- Jose Mourinho will need to overcome a number of hurdles to land the Chilean
- Sanchez has his eyes on a reunion with his former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola
Ask people at Manchester City why Roberto Mancini was sacked four and a half years ago and they will provide half a dozen reasons. Ask Mancini the same question and he will give you one: Robin van Persie.
In early 2012, Mancini thought he was favourite to sign Van Persie for City from Arsenal. Manager of a team that would win its first Premier League title later that season, Mancini had met the Dutch forward and Van Persie had even looked at a house.
In the end, Van Persie moved into that house but only after performing a neat volte face and signing for Manchester United.
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez finds himself in a transfer tussle between both Manchester Clubs
This time it’s Alexis Sanchez who is the hot property. For Arsenal, things do not change. They still cannot hang on to their best players.
But in the North West things are different. To win this particular battle of Manchester, United manager Jose Mourinho will need to defy not just his neighbours but also the equally significant obstacles of reason and logic.
Back in 2012, Mancini raged privately that City opened the door to United by failing to offer Van Persie enough money. There was more to it than that, though.
At that time, City were the fastest-growing force in Europe. But United were still the United of old. Just about.
United beat City to the signing of Arsenal's Robin van Persie and he guided them to the title
Former City boss Roberto Mancini missed out on the Dutchman and eventually lost his job
They had won four of the past six titles, had contested a Champions League final a year earlier and still had Sir Alex Ferguson in charge.
Ferguson told Van Persie that, with him on board, United could win the title back. He was right and Van Persie scored the goals that took them there.
Now, more than half a decade on, what do United have to put in their brochure?
How do they persuade Sanchez that a return to eminence is imminent?
How do they convince the Chilean the great glory and richness of their past is any match for the tantalising possibilities of a future in East Manchester?
Money can talk, of course. Sometimes, we can still be surprised at just how loud its voice is. From this point of view, United can stand toe to toe with the best in English football and all but a couple across Europe.
It seems difficult for United to persuade Sanchez that he should join them over their rivals
Jose Mourinho will put Sanchez straight to the top of the United pay scale if that is required
Mourinho and Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, will catapult Sanchez straight to the top of the United pay scale if that is what this needs. They will also pay way over the odds for a 29-year-old player who is actually available for nothing in a matter of months.
There is still nothing wrong with that strategy.
United have been caught on the wrong side of financial prudence in the past and lived to tell the tale.
Nevertheless, if Sanchez is coming at this from the same angle that Van Persie was the last time this scenario happened then it would be quite extraordinary if he were to put finance before sporting prospects.
Van Persie joined United because he felt his talent was deserving of more medals. In his years in London he won one FA Cup. Sanchez, an Arsenal player for three and a half seasons, has so far won two. It is not enough. Hence the unhappiness.
Sanchez has his eyes on a reunion with his former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola at City
We should never underestimate the pulling power of Mourinho. A serial winner and a man who has improved United significantly, he remains a magnet to players.
Presuming he stays beyond this strange season, Mourinho will bring a more competitive United side to the Premier League table next season. His teams will always challenge. Equally, he would not have asked United to make this bid — he would not have risked losing out to City coach Pep Guardiola — if he had not been given encouragement by Sanchez somewhere down the line.
However the landscape of English football is painted sky blue at the moment and that would appear to stretch all the way to the horizon.
Sanchez has had his eyes on a reunion with his former Barcelona coach Guardiola since last summer and were he to change horses now it would appear at the very least to represent the most unexpected of gambles.
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