When Henrikh Mkhitaryan left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United this summer, the captain of the Armenian national side surely didn’t foresee a situation in which he found himself in his new club’s starting XI just once within three months of this new season.
Injured on international duty in September, Mkhitaryan started the Manchester derby only to be substituted at half time after a disappointing display. The former Bundesliga Player of the Year couldn’t adjust to the intensity of the fixture. After aggravating sn injury sustained whilst playing for his country, he was absent for two months.
A fleeting substitute performance against Fenerbahce during United’s 2-1 Europa League defeat to the Turkish side was encouraging. Mourinho though dropped him from the squad altogether for the following game against Swansea City three days later.
Frustrated In A Good Way
Unsurprisingly, Mkhitaryan suffered the same fate for last weekend’s game against Arsenal. His manager finally has some encouraging words for the beleaguered number 22 this week. Speaking to reporters after the Arsenal game, Mourinho said:
“Yes. I told him today [Saturday] that he is going to be involved in the game against Feyenoord. He is trying. Obviously he is not happy but he is transforming his frustration in a good way, which is to close the mouth, work hard and try to adapt.
“I told him ‘this was not the game for you’ because I don’t think he needs 10 or 20 minutes from the bench. I said ‘I think you need a good game and you need to either start or, if not, to come for the second half’. He needs less pressure and better conditions for him to express his qualities.”
This will be of comfort to those concerned that Mkhitaryan’s United career may be over before it ever really began. Even so, Mourinho’s assertions that his player is unable to handle the intensity of English football are deeply concerning.
Still, Mkhitaryan has an opportunity to display his best assets against Feyenoord on Thursday. United need a win with the Dutch side likely to sit back and absorb a lot of pressure. It’s an opportunity for Mkhitaryan to prove a few doubters, including his manager, wrong.