Burnley (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho is confident his protracted pursuit of Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez is nearing a conclusion at long last.
The Manchester United manager, speaking after his side’s 1-0 victory at Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday, conceded that the negotiations, which are expected to end with Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving in the opposite direction, were at a delicate stage.
But, in common with Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger, Mourinho was optimistic the two-way transfer was either on the verge of completion or collapse, with a decision fast-approaching.
“I expect soon or never,” said Mourinho. “I think it is so close, so close, so close that if it doesn’t happen it’s not going to happen.
“So I am positive, I know my people are doing everything they can — the owners with the green light, Mr Woodward working hard with Matt Judge and everybody is giving everything they can and I think they are going to be successful.”
It is believed United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and head of corporate finance Judge agreed terms with Sanchez earlier this week, a deal that could pay the Chilean an astonishing reported weekly salary of £500,000 ($693,000, 567,000 euros) before tax and when his signing-on bonus is factored in.
But the move of Mkhitaryan in the opposite direction to London has taken longer to agree, although all the indications over the weekend were that the Armenian midfielder had finally accepted Arsenal’s offer.
– ‘No competition’ –
After Mourinho saw a goal from Anthony Martial defeat Burnley at Turf Moor, the Portuguese boss admitted that the addition of Sanchez, and the extra competition he will offer in the forward positions, will be welcome.
“In this moment there is no competition for places, we have four attacking players for three positions, three are starting, one is on the bench,” said Mourinho.
“Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) for the whole season was not available and we look to the attacking areas and we need that extra competitive internal competition.”
While Mourinho wants more competition in attack, his defence continues to perform well with second-placed United, 12 points adrift of runaway league leaders Manchester City, yet to concede a goal in 2018.
In fact, Mourinho’s side have now played 504 minutes since they last conceded — coincidentally in the 2-2 draw with Burnley at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
– ‘Brave Burnley’ –
“We defended well since the beginning of the season,” he said. “Normally we don’t concede many goals, the team is well organised, the defenders in form.
“David (De Gea) today I don’t remember anything important,” Mourinho added.
Indeed goalkeeper De Gea and his United team-mates rarely looked troubled against a Burnley side that had been one of the success stories of the first half of the Premier League season.
“It’s a different kind of performance to try to have but it’s a performance needed to get a result against a brave team like Burnley,” said Mourinho.
“We know the way they play, they are better than anyone playing that way, we had to adapt to be successful, we adapted well from the defensive point of view.”
The match ended with Burnley keeper Nick Pope running into the United box and Mourinho said: “We should have scored a second goal to kill it off but put ourselves in a position to fight until the last second, and the best image of it was with Pope in the box for the last couple of crosses and that’s the image of how competitive the game was.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche has now seen his side fail to win for eight games but remains confident about their current form.
“I’m pleased how far we have come as a team,” he said. “And we continue to move forward, including this performance today. As a manager, you can’t always measure everything by results — you’ve got to look beyond results sometimes.”