As the clock winds down on Alexis Sanchez’ stay at Arsenal, manager Arsene Wenger has sought to allay the fears of club fans who fear a replay of the scenario that happened when former striker Robin van Persie made the same move six years ago.
Van Persie angered supporters when he swapped Arsenal for United in 2012 and Chile international forward Sanchez is tipped to follow the same path with United playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan set to go the opposite way.
“I would say that our fans today know that Sanchez will not extend his contract, and they have accepted that idea,” Wenger said.
“And the fact that it will not be one-way traffic, it will be other-way traffic as well [with Mkhitaryan], so that makes the whole thing a bit smoother maybe, a bit less disappointing. We lose a player yes, but we could gain another player of top level as well.
“When it was with Van Persie it was a similar case, in the fact that he had only one year to go. Maybe it was the first case where the big players, Van Persie was one of the first cases where a big player didn’t extend his contract and came close to the end of his contract.
“That will happen more and more. Because we arrive at a level where the money at stake for players who are free is so big, and the transfers are so big, that the players think ‘it’s better I go to the end of my contract, and if I don’t get the whole integrity of the transfer now, if I get only half, it’s a huge amount of money.”
Wenger added: “We took Van Persie when he played in the reserve team at Feyenoord and we [put in] long work with him. And when you get them there to the level and after they leave, of course that is the most painful.
“After, that they do well for the other club — you know that they will do well. But most of the time it’s after long, patient work that you have done with the players. … You forget that Man United had already a very strong team [when Van Persie left], and they have as well a very strong team now. So was it him on his own that made a difference? I don’t know, but he was a great player, Van Persie.”
Arsenal welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, while United are on the road against Burnley.