The Strange Case of Henrik Mkhitaryan

Henrik Mkhitaryan during a rare appearance for Manchester United this season. Photo: Wikimedia

When Jose “The Special One” Mourinho took the helm at Manchester United in July he wasted no time making several big money signings, signalling his intentions to bring back the glory days United enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson.

While the world record fee of 89 million pounds shelled out for Juventus midfield ace Paul Pogba was the main headline grabber.

Pundits and players alike were queuing up to heap praise on his capture of the 27-year-old Armenian-born midfield maestro Henrik Mkhitaryan, from German giants Borussia Dortmund, for a fee reported to be around 24 million pounds.

Mkhitaryan had a stellar 2015/16 campaign for Dortmund in the Bundesliga finishing as the league leader in assists, while also chipping in with eleven goals. His exploits led him to be voted players player of the year, an accolade that is often argued to be worth more than those handed out by the official bodies.

So with all this promise it is strange but true that Mkhitaryan has only been afforded one start by Mourinho this season since the start of the Premier League in early August.

This came on September the 10th in the Manchester derby, a notoriously high stake and high tempo affair that amounts to the ultimate baptism of fire in English Football. The whole team had a poor opening half, Mkhitaryan especially, he paid the price being substituted at half time and has not started a game since.

It was all smiles when Mourinho announced Henrik Mkhitaryan's signing in July of this year. Photo: Manutd.com
It was all smiles when Mourinho announced Henrik Mkhitaryan’s signing in July of this year. Photo: Manutd.com

Picking up a thigh injury shortly after the derby appearance did not help his cause, but according to Mourinho he has been fit and available for selection since late September.

In fact, it was only during Friday’s two nil loss to Fenerbahce in the Europa League that he has seen any more pitch time at all, coming on as a substitute in the 60th minute to try and salvage what was, in essence, a lost cause.

When Mourinho was questioned specifically on Mkhitaryan’s role within the team during the Fenebarche games post-match press conference he explained:

“He has to do more. It’s as simple as that; we have a lot of players for his position and he has to play better than them, simple as that.”

It’s answers like this that leave many wondering how a player of Mkhitaryan’s undeniable quality is able to justify his place in the squad when his chances to shine have been almost non-existent so far this season.

The next few months will be crucial as to whether Mourinho does give him the chance to prove himself, or if he continues to freeze him out of the squad for reasons which will undoubtedly come to light at some stage.

Alan Kenyon
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