Manchester United appeared to be closing in on Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez on Monday, leading the chase to sign the Chile international ahead of long-time suitors and local rivals Manchester City.

If the transfer goes ahead it would be the second blockbuster move of the January transfer window involving Premier League clubs following Philippe Coutinho’s big-money move from Liverpool to Barcelona.

Sanchez, 29, looks to have played his last game for Arsenal, with manager Arsene Wenger saying on Sunday that his move could be confirmed “in the next 48 hours”.

However there is uncertainty as to whether he will pick the red or blue half of Manchester.

Pep Guardiola’s City, whose move for the player collapsed at the end of the summer transfer window, are understood to be reluctant to pay a reported fee in the region of £35 million ($48 million, €39 million) for a player who is out of contract at the end of the season.

United boss Jose Mourinho has done nothing to rule out United’s interest in Sanchez, calling him a “phenomenal player” and admitting that if there is a “fantastic opportunity” to sign a top player in the January transfer window, the club would be interested.

Former England captain Alan Shearer said the signing would be a huge coup for United because he has been a Guardiola target for some time.

“I don’t know what Sanchez is thinking but my guess – and it is a guess – is that he will choose City,” Shearer said on the BBC website, adding that the player knows Guardiola from his time at Barcelona and would be joining the best team in the country.

But he admitted the forward would walk into United’s team while he would not necessarily be an automatic choice in City’s star-studded line-up.

Runaway Premier League leaders City boast an dazzling array of attacking talent with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero vying for places.

Sanchez would certainly feature for City, who lost their unbeaten Premier League record at Anfield on Sunday, as they chase silverware on four fronts but he would struggle to pin down a permanent starting berth at the Etihad.

Starting spot?

Second-placed United, who are 15 points behind City, also have an impressive selection of forwards but Sanchez could expect more playing time alongside Romelu Lukaku at Old Trafford, with doubts growing over the future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic following his recent return from a long-term injury.

Sanchez joined Arsenal from Barcelona in 2014 and in a stellar 2016/17 campaign scored 30 goals and made 17 assists, though his form has since dipped.

His loss would be a major blow for Arsenal, who face losing another big-name player to one of the Manchester clubs, with Sanchez likely to follow the path taken by Robin van Persie, who swapped the Emirates for Old Trafford in 2012.

A number of Arsenal players have also joined City in recent years including Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure.

Wenger left Sanchez out of his squad to face Bournemouth on Sunday, where they slipped to a damaging 2-1 defeat, leaving them eight points off the top four.

Arsenal themselves have been linked with a £35 million move for Bordeaux forward Malcom but Wenger, who said the club would need a replacement if Sanchez were to leave, refused to confirm his interest in the Brazilian.