It was a strange season at Old Trafford last season. As it was for their new creative force Henrikh Mkhitaryan. An indifferent start to his Manchester United career saw him substituted at half time in the first Manchester derby of the season and then disappear from the teem sheet for a considerable amount of time. He played well in the Europa League and was vital in the club winning the trophy and with United back in Europe’s elite competition, the Champions League, he will be needed to do the same in Europe this season. So why is the Armenian man who signed for £30 million going to be a force this season?
Mkhitaryan spent three years at Shakhtar Donetsk playing 72 times and scoring on 38 occasions. His reputation grew at the Ukrainian side hence the interest from Borussia Dortmund. He made the switch to the German side in 2013 for just over £20 million. He started well and his first two seasons were solid. His third year at Dortmund saw him step his game up to a higher level. At the end of the season he was voted the Bundesliga Player’s Player of the year, not bad considering the wealth of stars in German football. A big factor in him winning the award were the 15 assists he amassed that season.
Then came his big move. Footballing giants Manchester United and Jose Mourinho moved for the Armenian superstar, his move made him the first player from his country to play in the Premier League. Little injuries and lack of defensive work rate were the major reasons he struggled in his first year. He may have struggled but he returned some good statistics. ‘The Red Devils’ had a long campaign so he played in 41 games in all competitions. In that time he scored 11 times and notched up five assists. While he struggled he put in some great performances showing signs that he had what it takes.
Many players coming from different leagues struggle to get used to the type of football played. Especially players like Mkhitaryan who are technical players. The Premier League promotes players to be physical and have blistering pace, technical players often fail to make an impact straight away. Another issue was that the former Dortmund man was mainly utilised in wide areas. Mourinho opted to play a 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder. Mkhitaryan excels when he plays behind the striker and is allowed to move in between lines. From there he can use his agility, wonderful balance and acceleration to cause problems. If he is offered this role this season he could become a leading star in the Premier League.
However, it does not look good for the United number 22 getting the role behind the striker. With the signing of Nemanja Matic and the fact United already have Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera it looks as if this trio will form the midfield trio. Meaning that Mkhitaryan will more than likely be forced out wide again. He can still have an affect on the game from there but United will not get the best out of the player. This is similar to what happened when Alex Ferguson signed Shinji Kagawa from Dortmund. Kagawa is another smaller more technical footballer who was forced to play out wide at Old Trafford. He did not succeed and returned back to the German club.
Hopefully for the Premier League Mkhitaryan can secure his position in the United side and nail down his favoured position. He could form a beautiful partnership with new striker Romelu Lukaku if given the chance. It is vital for Mourinho to get the best out of his play maker. It could have a major impact on their title charge.