At the start of the January transfer window, much of the talk regarding Alexis Sanchez was how would he fit into Pep Guardiola's star-studded team at Manchester City but over the course of the past week, Manchester United have thrown a spanner in the works. Rather quickly, it became apparent that Jose Mourinho was close to pulling off a significant coup and one which at least strengthens United's hopes of finishing in second place in the Premier League table, even if it does not necessarily give the club any extra hope of closing down City's 12-point advantage at the top of the division. However, all eyes will soon be on the part that Sanchez has to play in United's starting lineup, and it's going to be a considerable change to playing under Guardiola and Arsene Wenger.
With free football bets at your disposal, there will be temptation to use it or them on Sanchez to net in his early games for United, even if he has not been that prolific for Arsenal this season. Just eight goals have come from 22 appearances in a Gunners shirt but that has not stopped the player making point-winning contributions over the last six weeks, with his pin-point cross helping to earn a vital point at Southampton and two goals against Crystal Palace proving pivotal at Selhurst Park. For much of his time at Arsenal, Sanchez has been allowed to roam and put himself into positions where he can become a serial matchwinner and get himself the glory, but will Mourinho be prepared to give him such freedom?
Due to the stature and form of Romelu Lukaku, we can rule out Sanchez playing in the number-nine role, for now. Sanchez fits the Mourinho mould of being strong and athletic but he is not a threat in the air and Lukaku will keep his spot at the head of United's attack. That leaves one of the three attacking-midfield positions and if we were to place a bet on which area he will feature, it would be on the left flank, the same area where he has occupied for Arsenal, but we expect Mourinho to restrict Sanchez to some degree. You're never going to get the 29-year-old to stay tight to the touchline but Mourinho will have a set plan for his new signing and he will be expected to put in a shift in defensive areas. Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are attacking full-backs and Daley Blind would prefer to be used in the centre so whoever is deployed on the left wing, they will have to help out in the opposite half of the pitch.
The same could be said on the opposite side with Valencia having been converted from a winger into a full-back but Mourinho has more trust in the Ecuadorian. The manager is also able to use both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial down the right and it will probably be a case of one or the other from here onwards. If history is anything to go by, Mourinho will never use a front four of Martial, Rashford, Sanchez and Lukaku. Could Sanchez be played down the centre as a support striker to Lukaku? Perhaps, but that strategy may hinder the role of Paul Pogba, who is showing that he remains United's key man with a bagful of assists since his return from injury.
That remains an important issue for Mourinho. All the talk right now is how will he get the best out of Sanchez and can Sanchez get a little bit more out of Lukaku, but it all has to fit in with a team being built around Pogba. The club's record signing has had a mixed impact at Old Trafford but the fact remains that you have to give him every opportunity to work to his strengths because in the long term, the Frenchman has a pivotal part to play if United are ever going to close the gap on their neighbours in the coming seasons. Regardless of that, where does Sanchez line up if and when he starts against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup or against Tottenham Hotspur - of all teams - at Wembley Stadium before the end of the month? Expect that to be on the left.