Henrikh Mkhitaryan arrived at Manchester United with a major reputation for being one of European football’s best players after sweeping the Bundesliga Player Of The Year award – previously won by Kevin De Bruyne.
The Armenian has not had the start he would have hoped for at the Old Trafford club. Mkhitaryan has failed to make any impact at United since making his big money move from Borussia Dortmund in July.
Believe it or not, it’s not unusual for Mkhitaryan to struggle with poor form following a big money move. The former Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker endured two difficult seasons at Dortmund before finding his best form under Thomas Tuchel last year. Difficult contract negotiations followed, but interest from Manchester United meant Mkhitaryan departed Germany after just one successful season.
Even former teammate Ilkay Gundogan stated Mkhitaryan is a stunning player but his time in Germany was not as good as people choose to perceive.
“Henrikh has been at Dortmund for three years. The first two years were not so easy for him, to be honest,” Gundogan said in July, following his move to neighbours Manchester City.
This indicates that the Armenian struggles to adapt to new surroundings, which suggests why he is yet to make a greater impact for Manchester United thus far. His performance against Manchester City in the derby was border-line disrespectful, as he looked fare from capable of playing for the historic Red shirt.
With a sorry look and lack of care, he was publicly criticised by manager Jose Mourinho following his inability to track opposition runners, which led to Manchester City’s two goals.
When the signing was made official, he didn’t seem like a Jose Mourinho player, but more like one from the club to try and appease fans. His inability to defend in an appropriate fashion makes him a very unlikely Mourinho player. Lacking defensive solidity, Mourinho opts to play Pogba in a position of freedom, which would normally facilitate Mkhitaryan. Nonetheless, if Pogba is occupying a central position along with Wayne Rooney, that leaves just the wide areas for Mkhitaryan to use.
It hasn’t been uncommon for United to sign attacking midfielders and have them struggle to adapt to positions previously seen at other clubs. Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria were both signed as the club attempted to make an exciting signing for the fans when results weren’t going their way. The fact remains that neither had created the same amount of chances or reproduced form previously seen at their club’s prior to joining United.
Mourinho is now in a situation previously experienced by other United managers – David Moyes struggled to accommodate Mata whilst Di Maria was eventually cast aside by Louis Van Gaal. Even Sir Alex Ferguson struggled to accommodate some players, such as Shinji Kagawa, Juan Sebastian Veron and even Diego Forlan.
Mkhitaryan picked up a thigh injury while on international duty with Armenia in the build-up to the derby and a re-occurrence of the niggling injury caused him to suffer a relapse against Watford. They are certainly denting his movement going forward and don’t enable him to obtain a regular run in the United squad.
Mkhitaryan certainly deserves his chance in the team, even if he is struggling to adapt. Wayne Rooney’s form is that bad, United fans have called for their club captain and soon to be record goalscorer to be dropped from the squad – if not sold completely. Rooney is yet another player who prefers the No.10 position at United, and the club captain inhabits the position on the basis of the past couple of seasons, rather than being deserving of a place in the starting eleven.
Surely, by spending £26million on a player with the potential of Mkhitaryan, it could be worth dropping Rooney to accommodate him during home games, which would increase his confidence, along with seeing a return on that substantial fee paid by the club.
Mkhitaryan’s poor form may be just a short stint but with Mourinho’s managerial past, you wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to cut his loses and ditch the Armenian international if he fails to deliver.
It’s difficult to deny Mkhitaryan’s ability and he can become an outstanding Premier League player but until these factors change, we may not see him achieve his potential and guide Manchester United to a successful season ahead.