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Man City still favourites to sign Sanchez but United are in contention

Man City still favourites to sign Sanchez but United are in contention
From ESPN - January 12, 2018

Nothing is ever quite as it seems when an unsettled Arsenal star is being offered a way out of the Emirates Stadium by both Manchester City and Manchester United, so we should never have expected Alexis Sanchez's escape route to be without twists and turns.

Will he go to Premier League leaders City or have United found a way to persuade him to choose Old Trafford?

And would Arsene Wenger rather sell him for less to Pep Guardiola than bank more for the Chilean forward, and potentially land Henrikh Mkhitaryan at the same time, by allowing long-time rival Jose Mourinho to put him in a United shirt?

What is certain is that City are no longer in a one-horse race to sign the 29-year-old and Guardiola's refusal to engage with any questions about Sanchez during his press conference on Friday hinted at growing frustration with the ongoing saga over the player's next move.

"I am focused on Liverpool versus City," Guardiola said of his team's game on Sunday, when asked for an update on City's pursuit. "If I was my players, I would not want my manager talking about other things."

There was a subtle difference in tone from Mourinho, however, during his media briefing shortly afterwards at United's Carrington training ground.

Looking tanned and relaxed after a five-day training break in Dubai, Mourinho spoke about the difficulties of completing signings in January, before adding that "there are some players in the football world, if you have the chance to sign them in January, March or July, you have to try."

United's manager then went on to describe Sanchez as a "phenomenal player," before insisting he really should not say too much about an Arsenal player.

Would Mourinho use such a glowing reference if he believed the player was about to sign for a rival? Or was the United manager making a public play to Sanchez by boosting his ego with such praise?

In any big transfer involving more than one interested party, there are games of bluff and counter-bluff, with the semantics of press conference comments often hidden beneath layers of caveats and intentionally misleading statements.

But sources have told ESPN FC that City are now prepared to withdraw from the battle to sign Sanchez, having for so long believed they had a free run to the player.

United's entry into the race complicates matters for City because the Old Trafford outfit will meet Arsenal's 35 million valuation, with or without Mkhitaryan as leverage, and they will also pay the necessary agent fees.

City, meanwhile, have no intention of paying more than 20m for a player with fewer than six months remaining on his contract and they are reluctant to meet the agent's financial demands.

But do not take that as City throwing in the towel. After all, they were determined not to pay over the odds for Kyle Walker last summer but, when it came to the crunch, they stumped up to sign the defender from Tottenham.

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