Henrikh Mkhitaryan Can Get Manchester United Firing In All Competitions This Season
When José Mourinho dropped Henrikh Mkhitaryan and left him out of the side for several months last season, questions were beginning to be asked.
Fans of Manchester United wondered if perhaps the decision to sign the Armenian came from Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, rather than the manager himself. Or, in what would be a major conspiracy, Mkhitaryan was used as a bargaining chip to Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, in helping to recruit the French superstar.
However, 12 months on, and those conspiracies have been refuted and we are truly seeing the best form of Mkhitaryan since his days at Borussia Dortmund. Towards the end of last season we saw glimpses in the Europa League of what the tricky, attacking midfielder can offer, but we failed to see him reproduce those performances in the Premier League.
But four games into the new domestic season and Mkhitaryan has already racked up five assists - four more than he managed in the entirety of last season. He has looked a completely different player and looks composed in a Manchester United shirt.
In hindsight, it was the right decision from Mourinho - who would have thought!? - to allow Mkhitaryan the time to embed himself in England, in new surroundings, in a new country, playing a completely different style of football.
What Manchester United lacked in the final third last year was a clinical edge in front of goal. While that is not Mkhitaryan’s area of use, the ability to continue to create heaps of chances is only going to help in the long-run.
The Armenian captain has a wealth of experience in European competition after being at both Shakthar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund prior to joining Manchester United in 2016.
Mkhitaryan’s best position is comfortably behind the central forward, in this case, Romelu Lukaku. Operating as a number 10, the playmaker has a habit of delivering the crucial pass at the right time, splitting the opposition’s defence like a hot knife through butter.
However, in this day and age, there is no such thing as a ‘true number 10’; Mkhitaryan interchanges with his other wide forwards and will sometimes occupy himself on the left or the right. With such a fluid front line, it creates problems for defenders in who to pick up and prohibits them applying a man-marking defensive tactic.
Mkhitaryan is also deceptively quick. When Manchester United break for a counter-attack, fans are reluctant to see Juan Mata pick up the ball because, for all of his strengths, his natural speed is not one of them. However, with the former Dortmund star, that is not a problem. Mkhitaryan can keep pace with the quickest players in the team and has the creative intuition to see how the play ahead of him is unfolding.
Manchester United will look to properly challenge for the Premier League this season, and with the other competitions they are enrolled in, it is going to be a long campaign.
Squad rotation is key, but if they can keep the wonderful Mkhitaryan fit throughout and not burn the Armenian to the ground, they will feel positive that chance after chance will come, especially in the Premier League. The only question is whether they will be able to finish them.