Saturday 21 September 2019

Jose Mourinho ready to sell Manchester United pair in January - but Alexis Sanchez is going nowhere

Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez
Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, is prepared to cash in on Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo in a bid to bring in a new centre-half in January but the club and Alexis Sanchez fear they are stuck with each other.

Mourinho’s continuing battles came as Nicky Butt, the head of United’s academy, admitted the comprehensive 3-1 derby defeat to Manchester City on Sunday had provided another chilling reminder of just how far behind their local rivals the club had fallen.

The loss left United languishing in eighth, 12 points behind leaders City, seven adrift of the top four and with a negative goal difference, and Butt, a member of United’s 1998/99 treble winning side, left Mourinho and the club’s hierarchy under no illusions about the challenges they face going forward.

“I think every now and again you come up against a team that are too good for you,” Butt told the international player care conference in London on Monday in a candid admission about City’s supremacy. “Every now and again you have got to hold your hands up and say they are a better team than us, better players than us, too good for every team in the Premier League to be honest, and they are as good as any team in Europe.

“For Man Utd now, we have got a challenge on to get back to where we want to be, which is the biggest club in the country, and also in the city. So that challenge is there for the owners, the board, the manager and the club in general to be where we want to be. And, to be honest, we have got a challenge on our hands to get there.”

Mourinho wants to sign a central defender in January, with Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar and Toby Alderweireld, of Tottenham, among the options, and he is believed to be willing to offload Bailly, in addition to Rojo, if it boosts his prospects of doing so after a summer in which his centre half targets were vetoed.

United have kept one clean sheet in 12 league games and only the bottom three and Burnley have conceded more than the 21 goals the Manchester club have shipped.

Whether United would sanction the sale of Bailly - who was Mourinho’s first signing in 2016 and is only 24 - is unclear. Mourinho’s wish to sell Anthony Martial in the summer was rejected and the Frenchman has since returned to form and favour under the manager.

But Bailly’s fortunes under Mourinho have plummeted since the end of last season and he is now struggling to even make United’s 18-man squad for matches and concerned he has lost the manager’s trust. The Ivory Coast defender was left out against City and he has not featured since being taken off after just 19 minutes of the 3-2 win against Newcastle at the start of last month.

Rojo has not played at all this season and, despite signing a new contract in March that ties him to United until 2021, the club were prepared to offload him in the summer and would still look to sell if the right offer came in.

 

Sanchez is another headache and there are growing concerns his signing from Arsenal in January was a costly mistake. The Chile striker was dropped to the substitutes’ bench against City and ineffectual when introduced late on. He has scored one goal this season, and only four in 29 appearances for United, and completed 90 minutes just once this term.

United committed up to £500,000 a week to sign Sanchez in the belief the 29-year-old - who arrived in swap deal with the £40 million rated Henrikh Mkhitaryan - would make an instant impact but the club have seen next to nothing for their huge investment.

Sanchez has struggled to settle in the North West and is understood to be looking for a way out of Old Trafford only 10 months into a contract that runs until June 2022.

But his dire form and the enormous costs involved in signing a player who will be 30 next month are deterring any would-be suitors and the only prospect of a parting of ways would involve huge financial sacrifice on both sides or a heavily subsidised loan and, for now at least, neither party will entertain that.

Sanchez is said to hold some hope of Paris St-Germain coming in for him but the French champions are not believed to be interested and are instead training their sights on younger targets.

United have started talks with midfielders Juan Mata and Ander Herrera as well as winger-turned-defender Ashley Young over extensions to their current contracts, all of which are due to expire at the end of the season. Young, 33, is in discussions over a new one year contract.

Meanwhile, Paul Pogba and Martial have withdrawn from France’s squad for their forthcoming games against Holland and Uruguay due to injury.

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