Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring. Photo: REUTERS/Darren Staple

LONDON - Manchester United have made a sensational attempt to hijack Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester City.

The transfer saga took a dramatic twist on Thursday when it emerged that United have outbid City for the Arsenal star. The Premier League leaders are understood to have offered £20million for Sanchez (left), but United’s bid is closer to Arsenal’s asking price of £35m. They are also prepared to better City’s personal terms of £250,000 a week.

Jose Mourinho is ready to let Henrikh Mkhitaryan move to the Emirates as part of any deal for the Chile forward. United’s offer was tabled last week but only came to light on Thursday.

The transfer tug of war between the two Manchester giants is reminiscent of their previous battles to sign Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Dimitar Berbatov since the Abu Dhabi takeover of City in 2008. Despite United’s interest, City would still appear to have the upper hand on this occasion.

Sanchez has been desperate to move to the Etihad as part of the City project under his old Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

The 29-year-old would be almost certain to win his first Premier League title this season, with City 15 points clear at the top of the table, and would also be joining one of the Champions League favourites.

Nor will his decision be ruled purely by money. He could earn more by joining Paris Saint-Germain or a club in the Chinese Super League, where Hebei China Fortune were reported to be offering him £400,000 a week.

Sanchez was shocked to be left out of the starting line-up for the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Chelsea on Wednesday night and that has only strengthened his resolve to leave this month.

History not on United's side

City were prepared to wait until the summer to sign him as a free agent at the end of his contract but a knee injury to Gabriel Jesus has left Guardiola with just one fit striker in Sergio Aguero.

The two clubs have been haggling over a figure in recent days, with City reluctant to pay over the odds for a player who will cost nothing in five months. However, they did not count on United’s intervention.

Sanchez has been linked with a move to Old Trafford twice before — when he left Udinese for Barcelona in a £23m deal in 2011 and again when he joined Arsenal three years later for £31.7m.

United have had an attacking wide player high on their wish list since missing out on Ivan Perisic in the summer when they were unable to persuade Inter Milan to part with the Croatia winger for £46m.

Mourinho has complained that United are struggling to match City’s spending power despite paying out close to £300m on new signings since he took over in 2016. But trying to snatch Sanchez from his old rival Guardiola is risky, as failure would be seen as another personal victory for the Spaniard.

The news that Mourinho is prepared to part with Mkhitaryan is no surprise. The Armenia midfielder has struggled to win over his manager since United beat Arsenal to buy him from Borussia Dortmund for £26m in the summer of 2016.

United hope Arsene Wenger may still be interested in signing him, although the player’s wages may prove to be an obstacle.

Arsenal have been linked with Bordeaux’s Brazil Under 20 forward Malcom, who they could go for if Sanchez leaves.

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