Football

Wenger: Sanchez likely to join Man United in next 24 hours

Keown says Old Trafford move will make Chilean the biggest mercenary in football

Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez is likely to join rivals Manchester United this month, his manager Arsene Wenger said ahead of tomorrow's English Premier League match against Crystal Palace.

The Chilean international is out of contract at the end of the season and was also a target for Manchester City, but United appear to have stolen a march on their local rivals, reported Reuters.

"'I left him out of Bournemouth because the transfer was quite advanced. It's now in the next 24 or 48 hours it will happen or not," Wenger told a news conference, adding that United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan could move in the other direction.

"I worked on transfers for 30 years so it is likely to happen, but at any moment it can break down ... If it doesn't happen, he will play on Saturday.

"I like the player. We played many times against him when he was at (Borussia) Dortmund. He appreciated the quality of our games... The wages would not be a problem," Wenger added.

"This would be an exchange of players and I think one would replace the other," Wenger said, adding that he would still be in the market for more recruits.

Arsenal sold England international Theo Walcott to EPL rivals Everton on Wednesday.

Armenia international Mkhitaryan has faded this season and has fallen down the pecking order under manager Jose Mourinho, who omitted the 28-year-old from United's squad for their 3-0 win over Stoke City on Tuesday morning.

City this week pulled out of the race to sign Sanchez after deciding that the player's wage and transfer fee demands were too high but United appear to have no such concerns.

British media reports say that United are prepared to pay the striker more than £350,000 (S$640,000) per week.

"I wouldn't like to come out on the numbers because that's Man United's problem," Wenger said.

RESPECT

"I respect Man United because they generate the money they pay to the players with their own resources, so you have to respect that.

"He's 29 years old so the next contract will be, of course, very important for him."

While Wenger was sanguine about Sanchez cashing in on what could be his last big pay cheque, his former charge Martin Keown said that should the Chilean move to United, he would be the biggest mercenary in football.

The former England defender wrote in the Daily Mail: "Sanchez has got to be the biggest mercenary in football.

"Manchester City have wanted to sign Sanchez since the summer and, if no deal is done in January, they will be waiting for him at the end of the season.

"City would be the natural place for Sanchez to go to develop his football. He has worked with Pep Guardiola before.

"But for Sanchez, this is clearly not about going to the best team, working with Guardiola and taking his game to another level.

"He has probably thought that he will not get a better offer if he waits until the summer, so he might as well take the best deal on offer now. It has been all about the money."

However Sanchez's teammate Granit Xhaka believes that rather than a mercenary, the 29-year-old is an inspiration for his insatiable desire to win, even on the training ground.

He told Sky Sports: "At training, he's always an example for many people because he always wants to win no matter what we are doing - a big game or a small game. I think that's something that characterises him."

SECOND SPOT

Former Arsenal and England midfielder Paul Merson, meanwhile, believes what Sanchez would bring to United is second spot in the EPL.

He told Sky Sports: "United are second for me based on them being favourites to sign Sanchez, which would make them a shoo-in."

However, former Red Devils defender Phil Neville believes his former team's move for the 29-year-old is designed to give the club a boost rather than seal second spot in the league.

He told the BBC: "Sanchez, because of the form of Liverpool in particular... I think it's maybe hurried up the need for someone to come in and, not secure United's second place, but actually give them a massive, massive boost...

"Not only does it lift Manchester United, I think maybe taking him off City gives them a little bit of a boost as well."

Football