Sanchez-Mkhitaryan straight swop almost over the line

Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny bundling home their third goal in a 4-1 thrashing of Crystal Palace at home on Saturday. The contest was effectively over after four goals in the first 22 minutes as the Gunners prepare for the imminent signing o
Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny bundling home their third goal in a 4-1 thrashing of Crystal Palace at home on Saturday. The contest was effectively over after four goals in the first 22 minutes as the Gunners prepare for the imminent signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United with Alexis Sanchez heading in the opposite direction.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Manchester United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan were set to undergo medicals yesterday as their swop deal involving no transfer fees neared completion.

Amid the drawn-out transfer saga, their respective teams stayed focused to record vital wins in the Premier League on Saturday.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, speaking after his side's 1-0 victory at Burnley, said of the deal: "I expect soon or never. I think it is so close."

The Portuguese needed a goal from Anthony Martial to defeat Burnley and admitted that the addition of Sanchez will be welcomed.

"In this moment, there is no competition for places, we have four attacking players for three positions (behind striker Romelu Lukaku), three are starting, one is on the bench," said Mourinho of Martial, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata.

"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 this year. That has helped them stretch their unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions.

Arsenal, in contrast, only just blocked out the distractions of a turbulent transfer window.

The Gunners ended a five-match winless run by thrashing Crystal Palace 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium. Four goals in the first 22 minutes tore Palace to shreds as Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette got on the scoresheet.

The Gunners' display was a well-timed rebuttal to the critics who claimed the sale of Sanchez would be the nadir of a rocky season.

And manager Arsene Wenger, who last week sold Theo Walcott to Everton, is hopeful the club can now move on from the saga.

"This period creates a strange feeling in the dressing room," the Frenchman admitted. "That is why this transfer period in the middle of the season is difficult."

He refused to comment on Borussia Dortmund's claim that Arsenal have made a bid for their striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has hit 13 goals in 15 German Bundesliga games this season.

The 28-year-old was left out of the squad that drew against Hertha Berlin on Friday, a decision that has stoked transfer speculation.

"We are nowhere near anything with Dortmund," Wenger insisted.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'Sanchez-Mkhitaryan straight swop almost over the line'. Print Edition | Subscribe