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Is Mkhitaryan’s Current Form Directly Related To Jose Mourinho’s Actions?

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho

Image result for mkhitaryan and mata

Whole of Old Trafford rejoiced on Sunday when Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit a thunderous shot into the top of the net against Tottenham Hotspur to give Manchester United the lead. Three months ago, it was here that the Armenian was hauled off by Jose Mourinho at half-time in his first ever start for the Red Devils against bitter rivals Manchester City and on Sunday, Mourinho was a happy man on the touchline when the 27-year old wheeled off to celebrate his first goal for United at Old Trafford that would eventually turn out to be the winner on the evening.

So, it must have given the United faithful a huge scare when Danny Rose’s challenge injured Mkhitaryan’s ankle, leading him to be stretchered off the field, late in the game. There was a huge amount of concern surrounding the injury. But Jose managed to ease the nerves after the game, saying, “We don’t think it is a serious injury. He can’t play but he will only be missing for about a week or so.”

It was later confirmed that Mkhitaryan will be out until the Boxing Day and fans will have let a huge sigh of relief on hearing that news, knowing that their star player will not be out for a long duration.

Not long ago, the Armenian was rumoured to be looking for a way out from Carrington. Having joined in the summer from Dortmund, it was disheartening to see him pushed out into the cold from boss Jose Mourinho. Mkhitaryan joined United with a huge reputation of being one of the best-attacking players in Europe, after enjoying a stellar season with the BVB where he was directly involved in 49 goals in all competitions through the 2015-16 season.

So, it was shocking to see him on the periphery of the United side and after a poor outing against Pep Guardiola’s side, Mkhitaryan was completely out of the first team picture. His hiatus coincided with United’s run of poor form and fans and pundits were left wondering why Jose was so reluctant to get the 27-year old back into the fold.

Is Mourinho's treatment of Mkhitaryan now being justified?

Wayne Rooney was struggling, Zlatan Ibrahimović wasn’t finding the net regularly, Paul Pogba was going through the period of settling in. So, it was natural that the fans clamoured for Mkhitaryan’s inclusion in the squad. But Mourinho, against popular opinion, continued to keep the playmaker out of his plans. “Micki needs time to become the top player he knows he can be,” Jose said back in October when he was repeatedly questioned about the Armenian’s absence.

Nobody knew the reason behind his exile, some believed Jose was trying to protect the player’s confidence and not use him until completely fit, while a few others thought that the Portuguese wasn’t happy with ‘Micki’ and wanted him to improve the defensive side of the game.

But it doesn’t seem like the reason matters anymore now. Jose and United -prior to the injury against Spurs, were witnessing the full prowess and capabilities of Mkhitaryan.

Ever since his return to the fold against Feyenoord in the Europa League, Mkhitaryan has been United’s best player on the pitch each time he has featured. He has been directly involved in four goals in his last four appearances for the Red Devils across all competitions and has added a new spark to the United attack.

United have plenty of options in the wide areas. There are promising youngsters in the shape of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard alongside the experienced heads of Ashley Young and Juan Mata. But Mkhitaryan is a player of that quality which the Mancunians have missed for some years now.

Is Mourinho's treatment of Mkhitaryan now being justified?

 

His technical ability, combined with his eye for a pass means he can unlock defences with ease. His fast thinking capability, his vision along with his turn of pace set him apart from the rest of United’s wide players. His willingness to drift inside and open up spaces for his teammates to run into is a huge asset for the Red Devils, while he has also shown that he can hug the touchline and send in some quality crosses into the box.

Mkhitaryan, with his first-half goal against Tottenham, became the first ever Armenian player to score in the Premier League. He averages 1.5 key passes per 90 minutes he plays. Not bad returns for a player who is just beginning to find his feet with his new club. His dribbling abilities with the ball at his feet is a stand-out feature of his game and it has shown in the league with only Paul Pogba having completed more dribbles per 90 minutes (2.8) than Mkhitaryan (2.1) among the entire United squad.

The 27-year old has also shown in his limited opportunities at United that he is not afraid to take a shot at goal, as indicated by the fact that only Zlatan averages more shots per 90 minutes (4.9) that Mkhitaryan (3.3). This side of the game has been a huge improvement for United compared to last season when they averaged only 11.3 shots per game – only Norwich, Newcastle and Aston Villa averaged lesser; compared to 16.3 shots per game this term.

What has been more pleasing to see is that Mkhitaryan has clearly worked heavily on the defensive side of his game. He is always looking to press the opponents on the ball and has shown the willingness to help out his team at the back whenever needed.

Has Mourinho’s treatment of his player been the cause of this revival? We don’t know. But what we know is, Mkhitaryan has well and truly arrived in Manchester now. With the injury sidelining him for the upcoming fixtures, the fans will probably have to wait for some more time, but judging by his form, Mkhitaryan is on his way to achieving the great heights along with United.

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