Henrikh Mkhitaryan is ready to become a Manchester United favourite. Popularly nicknamed Micki, the Armenia international starts his second season at Old Trafford.
After an oddly inconsistent and yet fruitful season – both for the winger and his team – Mkhitaryan should have a much smoother ride in the Premier League. With the pre-season behind us and the first competitive match of the season archived, we have enough material to draw some conclusions.
One of them is former Borussia Dortmund man. His debut season was good and he is expected to build on that in the coming one. Armenian’s displays in Europa League were top class and at the age of 28, he is at his peak.
More Freedom For Mkhitaryan
Jose Mourinho is not the manager known for giving much freedom to his attacking-minded players. It is well-known even a flamboyant player like Eden Hazard had to contain himself in order to facilitate all Mourinho’s requirements.
With the arrival of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea, attacking side of Man United’s midfield is supposed to prosper, above all Paul Pogba, yet Mkhitaryan could fall into that category as well. He is not new to this team anymore. Both player and the manager know their surroundings much better and more flexibility could be given to Mkhitaryan.
Still, the better part is Mourinho’s new formation. Man United have been practicing 3-5-2 formation during pre-season friendly matches and Mkhitaryan often played as a striking partner to Romelu Lukaku. While Micki is not an out-and-out striker, he was given more freedom to roam around Lukaku, wandering on both sides to the Belgian.
In fact, it would look more like a 3-6-1 with a second striker next to Lukaku, with Mourinho shrewdly utilising Mkhitaryan’s first class work rate and positioning. His off the ball movement is impeccable as well and this is where his assisting skills could be put on the show. As well, having next to him a real striker in form of Lukaku, their relationship could go really well. Lukaku’s goal-scoring record was great at Everton with poorer service, but with Mkhitaryan at his best, he could prosper even more.
Versatility And Adaptability
If there is anything Mourinho likes in a player, it is his ability to adapt to all of his wishes. Matic was bought for that exact reason – he will do the job he is told to do and he will do it really well. And Mkhitaryan showed glimpses of that last year. He did not start as often as some would expect, he would also often be substituted, but while at the pitch, he would do what he was told.
Mkhitaryan is also versatile. He plays as a winger, but can also play as a number 10. He is creative and knows how to take on players, but he is also intelligent enough to make good runs and track back to help out defensively. His defensive duties are evident, and he was making 2.86 interceptions and tackles combined per 90 minutes. In comparison, Chris Smalling had a combined 1.57 per 90 minutes in that category.
During his last season at Borussia Dortmund, he scored 13 goals and made staggering 20 assists across Bundesliga and Europa League. He has an eye for finding team-mates – especially since he was Dortmund’s playmaker and prime creator. However, last season he also showed other qualities.
Despite his playing time restricting him to just over 24 full games (2169 minutes across 35 appearances in Premier League and Europa League), he showed he could take his chances. His goal conversion ratio was 18.5 per cent, which means he needed just 5.4 shots on average to score a goal.
Jose Mourinho has many options regarding using Mkhitaryan in both of 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2, but it is on Armenian winger to shine in any of them, the way he did two years ago for Borussia Dortmund.