Winners & losers of Alexis Sanchez’s transfer to Manchester United

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Arsenal's best player has moved to Old Trafford, much to the dismay of both the Gunners and Manchester City, who had been favourites to sign him

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    Winner: Jose Mourinho

    It's been quite the start to the New Year for Jose Mourinho. Having successfully drawn Antonio Conte into an undignified war of words with his customary lack of humility, the Manchester United boss has landed Pep Guardiola's primary January transfer target. 

    Guardiola, of course, fully backed Manchester City's decision to withdraw from the race to sign Alexis Sanchez, having understandably concluded that the Chile international was not sufficiently committed to joining the club, given his sudden interest in earning more money elsewhere. 

    However, Mourinho will not care in the slightest. After being forced to endure so much talk of how everyone wants to play for Pep, the Portuguese will be delighted at having shown the Catalan that both he and United retain the ability to trump their great rivals.

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    Winner: Fernando Felicevich

    As we learned from the farcical fees involved in Paul Pogba's return to Old Trafford in 2016, Manchester United, like so many other clubs, have no issue with heeding to the outrageous demands of avaricious agents. 

    Therefore, it was not in the least bit surprising that the Red Devils were willing to deal with Alexis Sanchez's representative, Fernando Felicevich, who had agreed financial terms with City on behalf of his client, only to then break that accord when it became clear that there was more money to be made at United. 

    Indeed, the total package is now set to surpass the £60m deal that City had agreed with Arsenal last summer, which is staggering when one considers that we are talking about a 29-year-old with no re-sale value.

    Given the source of their considerable wealth, City are hardly in a position to take the moral high ground on such matters but both the club and Guardiola deserve credit for refusing to be drawn into a bidding war by Felicevich. 

    It would be nice if other clubs followed suit and adopted a similarly strong stance against agents but, at the end of the day, City took a stand because they could afford to do so.

    Guardiola ultimately decided that with Gabriel Jesus set to make a quicker-than-expected return from injury, the runaway Premier League leaders did not need to sign Alexis at all costs, particularly as making him their highest-paid player could have destabilised the squad.

    United, by contrast, wanted to make a statement signing and are willing to pay whatever it takes to stop their city rivals from becoming even stronger, even if it meant making another agent even richer. 

    So, while Felicevich has acted with little integrity, he is poised to secure both a transfer and more money for his client.

    In short, he is getting exactly what both he and Alexis wanted and, in the modern game, the bottom line really is all that matters.

  3. Winner: Sergio Aguero

    "It's an honour for me to have Aguero under my command," Pep Guardiola enthused earlier this month. "Aguero is the kind of player that in a matter of seconds can score two goals. He is an essential player for us."

    In light of the persistent pursuit of Alexis, Aguero could have been forgiven for querying his manager's definition of the word 'essential', given the Chilean's arrival would have seen him slip to third place in the pecking order at the Etihad, behind both the former Barcelona forward and Gabriel Jesus. 

    As it is, though, Aguero is now in a position to continue strengthening the argument that he should remain City's first-choice centre-forward, even after his young Brazilian team-mate returns from injury. 

    Sunday's trip to Anfield did not go well for Aguero, whose ineffective display contrasted starkly with the exhibition of exuberance by Liverpool counterpart Roberto Firmino at the other end of the field.

    However, the Argentina international has still scored four times in four outings since the turn of the year and now, following the collapse of the Alexis deal, he has even more time as City's undisputed No.9 to prove himself truly essential to the City cause.

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    Loser: Arsene Wenger

    To paraphrase a famous movie quote, you either leave a hero, or hang around long enough to become the villain. This is the sorry fate now facing Arsene Wenger, who runs the risk of ruining his legacy with his gross mismanagement of Arsenal's season. 

    Indeed, for some disgruntled fans, the Frenchman has long since become the cause of the club's problems, not the solution to them. 

    Wenger holds the kind of power at the Emirates that is now almost non-existent anywhere else in football, so he has to take the majority share of the blame for the fact that the Gunners allowed their two best players, Alexis and Mesut Ozil, enter the final year of their respective contracts, thus creating a debilitating air of uncertainty surrounding the club.

    As a result of Wenger's stubbornness and total lack of a contingency plan – which was painfully exposed by the ham-fisted attempt to sign Thomas Lemar before the close of the summer transfer window – Arsenal are now set to lose their main forward to a top-four rival midway through a season which already looks likely to end without qualification for the Champions League.

    Whereas Liverpool were prepared and extremely well remunerated for the loss of Philippe Coutinho, Arsenal are desperately trying to plug the holes on a sinking ship. 

    Indeed, should Arsenal fail to finish in the top four for the second successive season, it is difficult to foresee them reclaiming their position among England's elite any time soon. 

    Wenger has had several chances to bow out on top, with an FA Cup win. Instead, he looks set to leave Arsenal exactly where he found them 22 years ago: languishing in mid-table.

    That would be a sad end for the man responsible for 'The Invincibles'. But, to paraphrase another famous movie quote, if Wenger is looking for the guilty, he need only look into a mirror.

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    Loser: Marcus Rashford

    "In training, Marcus scores unbelievable goals," Jose Mourinho said earlier this month. "Then, he's coming to matches and he's missing unbelievable chances. He hits the post and the goalkeeper saves.

    "Clearly the players have these moments. I'm not worried with Marcus because the good moments will arrive."

    The addition of Alexis to the United squad means that those "good moments" could take a little longer to come, given Rashford has already lost his place in Mourinho's starting line-up. 

    While Anthony Martial is enjoying a resurgence and Jesse/'Messi' Lingard is in the form of his life, Rashford has regressed and looks a player short on confidence. 

    Alexis' arrival will hardly help matters, as there is always likely to be a berth in the first team for such a versatile, world-class performer, particularly under a coach like Mourinho, who has long favoured the finished article over raw talent. 

    Consequently, Rashford runs the risk of becoming a bit-part player for United in a World Cup year. 

    That is bad news for both the 20-year-old forward and England.

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    Loser: Alexis Sanchez

    Robinho was so desperate to leave Real Madrid in 2008 that he gave little thought as to whether he should join Manchester City or Chelsea. This led to an amusing first official interview with City in which he thanked Chelsea for having signed him. 

    Alexis Sanchez's situation is slightly different, though, and a lot less understandable.

    Yes, the Chilean wanted to leave Arsenal at all costs but he has had his heart set on a reunion with former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola at City since last May.

    In fact, only the Gunners' failure to persuade Monaco to sell them Thomas Lemar blocked his £60m transfer to the Etihad on the final day of the summer transfer window.

    Another agreement was struck for the deal to belatedly go through this month but Alexis instead moved to City's rivals, United. It is a staggering u-turn, and not a flattering one.

    He will be linking up with an inferior team and an inferior manager. Any argument to the contrary on either point is completely undermined by the current Premier League standings.

    Alexis' stated reason for his unrest at Arsenal is the need to sate his desire, at 29, to be competing for major trophies. “When I got here, I thought, 'I'll win the title with this squad,'" he lamented last May.

    Yet he has decided against joining the champions-elect, who have legitimate hopes of winning four trophies between now and the end of the season, in favour of one that could win half as many (and even then, the Champions League is a long shot for a United side that is so often handicapped by Mourinho's pragmatism).

    With all of that in mind, it is difficult to conclude that Alexis has done anything but move for the money.

    That is his prerogative, of course, but the least he could now do is spare us any talk of winning major titles when it comes to explaining his decision to move to Old Trafford over the Etihad - provided he even cares which club he's joined, of course!