Sanchez signing will generate fanfare, just the way Man United like it
The way in which Manchester United announce signings has changed dramatically. It's a show in itself, from Juan Mata landing by helicopter to specific hashtags trending on social media when Paul Pogba arrived and Monday's confirmation of Alexis Sanchez.
#Pogback had 635,000 interactions on Instagram. By comparison, Luis Suarez signing for Barcelona had 219,000, Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus got 145,000 and Gareth Bale to Real Madrid garnered 112,000.
The key decisions were made in United's London Mayfair office, not Manchester, as creatives worked up slogans and memes ahead of football's most-expensive transfer. They decided on REUNITED #Pogback for social media.
Meanwhile, in real life, Pogba arrived at the club's Carrington training ground in a flashy red car provided by club sponsors Chevrolet. The rapper Stormzy also penned a tune in collaboration with the club, the player and adidas. Pogba was enthused by the idea of #Pogback and had input into it. He was a willing player on and off the field, to the delight of everyone concerned.
"Engagement isn't a part of what we do; it's everything we do," said United managing director Richard Arnold, the man who cuts the club's huge sponsorship deals and who will hope for an even bigger reaction to the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. But the fanfare associated with new arrivals is no vanity exercise.
United measure engagement and the number of people who show an interest in the swirl of enthusiasm that surrounds every new player. Such statistics woo prospective sponsors and future prospective signings. The club's argument is: "We're the biggest in the world and here's why. Come and join us." It helped convince Pogba, who was wanted by European champions Real Madrid, choose Old Trafford.
United were the 92nd English professional club to join Twitter -- in April 2012 -- but after a slow start, have the biggest following at 16.9 million on their English language account; Sanchez's former club Arsenal are England's second biggest with 12.9 million. They also have accounts in different languages.
The Twitter numbers are dwarfed by Facebook, where United have 73 million followers, plus another 20 million on Instagram. Only Barcelona and Real Madrid have more. United will use all of these channels, as well their own website and TV channel, to spread the good news of the new signing.
All of this is a long way from when United broke the British transfer record in 1981 to sign Bryan Robson for £1.5 million. Then, a humble trestle table with a contract on it was set out on the pitch before a game, which was enough to be considered extravagant, even excessive showmanship.
Sanchez has generated much enthusiasm. It helps that he's a top-level attacking player at his peak and that Manchester City wanted him before backtracking when his wages became too expensive. That is akin to a cat complaining about having too much cream and even City must have limits, but there are United players still stunned by the money offered to Carlos Tevez when he left United for City in 2009.
On Sunday, Old Trafford was closed to stadium tours as Sanchez spent time filming images that formed part of his transfer announcement. It was seen as imminent for several days, but the delay only added to the tension and ensured fans continued to check for updates.
An insider leaked a picture, which is what happens when everyone in the world has a phone in their pocket. It won't dampen the mood at United and nor will Henrikh Mkhitaryan's departure. The Armenian international is a talented player, who was given plenty of chances, but he doesn't perform as consistently as you need at United and there were doubts about his mental toughness for Premier League football. Maybe he'll be better suited to Arsenal.
Sanchez also knows how it feels to be let go by a giant: Barcelona let him leave for Arsenal in 2014. The Chilean forward was only 22 when he arrived at the Camp Nou, an understandable decision since they were European champions, it offered a chance to live in a country where his mother tongue was spoken and he'd promised his deceased father that, one day, he'd play for Barca.
United were his second choice then and, six-and-a-half years later, Sanchez is older, wiser, can communicate in English and knows the Premier League. He can be a big star at Old Trafford and, like previous Arsenal players who've moved to M16 -- Robin van Persie joined in 2012 and was a Premier League champion less than a year later -- is more in search of trophies than a bigger pay packet.
Sanchez is also versatile. Though he'll wear the No. 7 shirt that has belonged previously to right-sided players from George Best to Steve Coppell, Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham, Sanchez can play in several forward positions.
That adaptability appeals to Mourinho, as does the consistency which has seen Sanchez score 80 goals in three seasons in England, while setting up another 46. His arrival should help lift the scoring burden on Romelu Lukaku.
United are England's best-supported club and have won the most league titles in the country's top-flight history. They also have international prestige. Now, with Sanchez on board, a return to their title-winning best is required, so that major trophies match the fanfare associated with new arrivals.
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.