Football

Man United's Mkhitaryan holds key to potential Sanchez move

Agent says Man United won't get their man if Armenian refuses to join Arsenal

Manchester United's bid to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal hinges on Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving the other way, the Armenian player's agent said yesterday as Antonio Conte distanced Chelsea from a potential deal.

Chile international Sanchez, who appears to have played his last game for Arsenal, had been strongly linked with a move to either Manchester United or Manchester City.

Chelsea boss Conte has also spoken of his admiration for the player.

The player, who is out of contract this summer, had appeared certain to sign for Pep Guardiola's team after a transfer fell through in August but it is understood City have pulled out of the race for the 29-year-old due to the costs involved, reported AFP.

There has been speculation Mkhitaryan will be offered as a makeweight from United to land Sanchez, and Mourinho left the playmaker out of the squad that beat Stoke 3-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time) due to "doubts about his future".

Mkhitaryan's agent Mino Raiola told Britain's Times newspaper that Sanchez's transfer to United was reliant on his client joining Arsenal as part of the deal.

"Manchester United are not going to sign Sanchez unless Mkhi agrees to join Arsenal," Raiola told the newspaper.

"Mkhi is going to do what is best for him. He has 2½ years left on his contract, so it's his decision. Sanchez is part of the Mkhi deal, not the other way around."

Conte last week described any potential cut-priced deal for Sanchez as a great opportunity but he told reporters yesterday that he did not believe Chelsea were trying to sign the Chilean.

Jose Mourinho, speaking after second-placed United had reduced Premier League leaders City's lead to 12 points, said it would be "great" if Sanchez arrived at Old Trafford.

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"No news on Alexis Sanchez, he is an Arsenal player," he said. "If he stays, it's great for Arsenal, if he comes to us, great for us, if he goes to another club, great for them."

Sky Sports revealed yesterday that the Red Devils will have to fork out a £35-million (S$63.8m) transfer fee to Arsenal, £5m in fees to the agents, and a weekly wage of more than £350,000 to bring the player to Old Trafford.

If the transfer goes ahead, it would be the third blockbuster move of the January window involving Premier League clubs, following Philippe Coutinho's big-money (£142m) switch from Liverpool to Barcelona and Virgil van Dijk's arrival (£75m) at Anfield from Southampton.

Sanchez joined Arsenal from Barcelona in 2014 and scored 30 goals and provided 17 assists in a stellar 2016/17 campaign, though his form has since dipped.

Arsenal have been linked with a move for Bordeaux forward Malcom but Arsene Wenger, who said the club would need a replacement if Sanchez were to leave, refused to confirm his interest in the Brazilian.

The British press also widely reported yesterday that Arsenal were in talks to sign Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was dropped at the weekend after missing a team meeting.

Football