In the biggest Premier League mid-season transfer in years, Manchester United have completed the signing of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, and as fans debate just how the Chilean might slot into Jose Mourinho’s starting XI it is beginning to look like there may not be room for some of United’s fan-favourites.
The 29-year-old has been handed the No. 7 jersey, made famous by the likes of George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, so the expectation is he will slot into some kind of attacking position on the right side of midfield.
Given his abilities in front of goal, however, Mourinho will likely employ his new addition in any position across the attacking line.
This season, Mourinho has increasingly rested his faith in an attacking lineup that includes Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Juan Mata, and so far it has delivered.
Resigned to the bench has been Marcus Rashford. Despite his meteoric rise from the academy ranks 18-months ago, the now 20-year-old just can’t nail down a place in the starting side.
It’s not that he has fallen out of favour at Old Trafford. Instead, it has been the goal scoring prowess of Martial and Lingard that have kept him on the bench.
Lingard’s rich vein of form this term, either from the starting XI or the bench, has seen Mourinho call on the 25-year-old ahead of Rashford for much of the season.
With the arrival of Sanchez from Arsenal and the expectation that he will stroll into the Portuguese’s match day plans, one wonders who will be relegated to the bench and whether this will force Rashford further down the evolving pecking order.
While fans might baulk at the notion that the teenager seen as Manchester United’s future and shining light could become an odd man out in the squad, you could well wonder if the same will be said of another striker that could find himself surplus to requirements – Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede is currently recovering from a serious knee injury he sustained last April and though he did return in December, he is currently sidelined again due to further problems with his recently rehabilitated knee.
Having returned so quickly from what was almost a career-ending injury, fans had hoped the 36-year-old could play a part in United’s push for Premier League glory.
Now, however, with a further layoff to endure and with United’s attack operating rather nicely, Mourinho might be pushed to find a place for the ageing superstar.
The arrival of Sanchez serves only to cast Ibrahimovic’s future into further doubt and you would be forgiven for believing that his involvement for the rest of the season will be sparse.
Mourinho now has the luxury of rotating players around with more flexibility than before, though, like all in-form players, the last thing they want is a break when they are playing well.
Therefore, to satisfy the inclusion of Sanchez is to sacrifice a current starter in the side. Just who it will be known soon enough. Mourinho is bound to test out a number of new permutations in the coming weeks but it is now difficult to see just how those currently losing the battle for starting places can be accommodated in the shake-up.
All players and fans know for now is that change has arrived.