Belfast Telegraph

Why Sanchez deal is far from plane sailing for Manchester United

As Gunners star posts private jet video, United old boy McClaren warns of unrest over wages

By Robert Jones

Alexis Sanchez's move to Manchester United is inching closer after the Chilean posted video on Instagram of him boarding a private jet.

The 29-year-old forward is widely expected to complete his move to the Red Devils today, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.

And yesterday, Sanchez shared an Instagram Story with his followers on the social media platform, apparently of him walking across an air strip towards a jet.

Sanchez is set to become United's best-paid player, with some reports putting his salary at £400,000 per week, and Steve McClaren has warned that salary could create dressing-room disharmony at United.

"That is the danger in the modern game and the problem I find in clubs," said McClaren, the former England manager and Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant when United won then treble in 1999.

"Wage parity is very important to players. Yes, they find out - at all levels - and if someone is paid a lot higher than others that can cause a problem.

"If he (Sanchez) is on the wages that is being bandied about then other players will know that when their contracts come up or they are in demand from other clubs.

"The others will be looking at renegotiation next season or the season after and getting to that (wage) level if they think they are at that level."

But McClaren believes United have struck a major blow by landing Sanchez, who has scored 80 goals in 166 appearances at Arsenal.

"Any manager worth his salt would love to have Sanchez in their team," McClaren added.

Centre back Chris Smalling , meanwhile, believes Jose Mourinho has instilled a defensive solidity at United after they recorded their 14th clean sheet of the Premier League season at Burnley.

United are yet to concede a goal in 2018 and have gone 504 minutes since last conceding when Burnley midfielder Steven Defour's free-kick beat David de Gea on Boxing Day.

So while all the talk surrounding United has been about the expected arrival of Sanchez, an attacker, it is their diligent work at the other end that is keeping them at the head of the pack chasing leaders Manchester City.

Along with Chelsea, United have the stingiest defence in the division and Smalling credited Mourinho's work in forming that solid base following the 1-0 win over the Clarets.

"I think we're well drilled," he said.

"Even last year I don't think we conceded many goals. It's good that as a team we can shut up shop and not give the other team too many chances, knowing that more often than not we're going to score because certain teams can only keep us out for so long."

Smalling has started the last two games at the heart of the defence with Phil Jones in a centre back partnership which has not always been available to United's managers due to injuries to both men.

"It's comfortable, it's great playing alongside him," Smalling added. "While all the boys are running hard for us at the front, if we can stop those goals it's brilliant."

Mourinho's side temporarily reduced City's lead at the top to nine points before Pep Guardiola's men re-established a 12-point cushion by beating Newcastle later on on Saturday.

Smalling is retaining hope City can still be caught and knows United have to amp up the pressure if they are playing before their rivals as they did on Saturday.

"We've all been there where leads have dwindled and teams have been caught, but we can only focus on ourselves," he added. "There is still a big gap and we need to make sure we win our games because if we don't then there's no point even talking about it."

Burnley have now gone eight games without a win. Yet having run United close at Turf Moor, goalkeeper Nick Pope is confident their fortunes will change if they maintain their good performances.

"I think that's a big thing - it can't be underestimated, playing well," he said. "If we stay in this vein of form then the points will come.

"We're working hard every day in training to make it happen. With these performances results will come."

Belfast Telegraph

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